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DR. JERRY WILSON


Here are some interesting questions on the differences between terms you may have wondered about.

Q:What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth?

R: Commonwealth is an old term referring to an organized political community. It served as the name of Great Britain during the reign of Cromwell, and probably most commonly we hear about the British Commonwealth (of Nations). As Britain’s colonies gained independence, they evolved into a free association of equal partners – a commonwealth.

In modern usage, it has come to mean the same as a state. In fact, we have four commonwealths in the United States. Can you name them? This is the official name of the commonwealths of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Q: What’s the difference between an animal and a mammal?

R: Well, a mammal is an animal, but let’s get a distinction. An animal is any living organism other than a plant, bacterium, fungus, virus or single-cell organism – so that makes us animals. Animals that have no backbone or spinal column are called invertebrates, such as insects and shrimp. Animals with a backbone are called vertebrates, of which there are five classes: fish; amphibians (frogs, salamanders, etc.); reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles, etc.); birds; and mammals. Fish, amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded, whereas birds and mammals are warm-blooded.

Humans fall into the category of mammals. Mammals are the highest class of vertebrates and feed their offspring with milk. Also, instead of producing their young from eggs like other vertebrates, most mammals have live births. There are two exceptions: the platypus and the spiny anteater, both mammals, lay eggs.

Q: What is the difference between a woodchuck and a groundhog?

R: A marmot is the name for a group of large, gnawing squirrels. One species in North America is called either a woodchuck or a groundhog. There is no difference, except on Feb. 2 – ever hear of Woodchuck Day?

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” – Lou Holtz

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.