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Science Literacy Week September 21 - 27, 2020

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About Origami Biodiversity

Origami Biodiversity is an exploration of some common plants, animals, birds, etc. that you can see in BC and also in Asia. You can find links to Youtube videos for instructions on how to fold these creatures out of paper, their different names in various languages, and some interesting relevant facts or folklore. This resource will be updated occasionally. Take the time to relax and make some paper creatures to decorate your home office with.

Indigenous Languages and Biodiversity

In hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in BC, the word for 'frog' is : pipá:m̓. The word for 'hummingbird' is: tin̓. Bronwen McKie, a student librarian at the Xwi7wa Library, found these words using the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet resource from Musqueam/MOA. We respect that the Indigenous peoples of the land have their own names for these plants and animals, and we hope to update this resource with more information on what those names are, or how we may find out more about them. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus, is on the traditional and unceded territories of the Musqueam people, who speak hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. Please check back for further updates.

On Land


AmphibiaWeb says there are 13 frog species in BC; have you seen any recently? If you have, how about posting your observations to as a citizen scientist?

Korean: 개구리 (Kaeguri)

In Korea the common frogs are 참개구리 (Ch'am gaeguri, “true frog”; Pelophylax nigromaculatus) and 청개구리 (Ch'ŏng gaeguri, “blue/green frog”; Hyla japonica). Ch'ŏng gaeguri is also a term for children who do not do as their parents say! The term comes from a sad folktale about what happens to disobedient children.

Japanese: カエル | 蛙 (kaeru)

In Japan the common frogs are 二ホンアマガエル (Nihon amagaeru, “Japanese rain frog”; Hyla japonica), ニホンアカガエル (Nihon akagaeru, “Japanese red flog”; Rana japonica) and トノサマガエル (Tonosama gaeru, “lord frog”; Pelophylax nigromaculatus). Frogs have been one of the most familiar creatures in Japanese daily life, and since the ancient picture scrolls 鳥獣戯画 (Chōjū giga, “Scrolls of Frolicking Animals ”) created in the 12-13th century, they have appeared in poems, comics, movies, and popular songs.

Chinese: 蛙 (wā) | 青蛙 (Qīngwā)

In China the common frogs are 中國雨蛙 (Zhōngguó yǔwā, “common Chinese treetoad” and “Chinese tree toad/tree frog”; Hyla chinensis), 金線蛙(Jīnxiàn wā, including “Beijing Gold-striped pond frog”; Pelophylax plancyi; and “Fukien Gold-striped pond frog”; Pelophylax fukienensis), 虎纹蛙 (Hǔwén wā, “Indian bullfrog”; Hoplobatrachus rugulosus). Frogs can signify everything from prosperity and immortality to ignorance in China. One of the most popular frogs in Chinese culture is the three-legged money frog, called 金蟾 (jīnchán, “Golden Toad”), also called 蟾蜍 (chánchú, “Toad”) or 招财蟾蜍 (zhāocái chánchú, “wealth-beckoning toad”), which represents a popular feng shui charm for prosperity. 

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓: pipá:m̓

 India-Frog (मेंढक/ਡੱਡੂOrigami:

In India common frogs are skittering frog (स्केटिंग मेंढक), burrowing frog (भारतीय बर्गर मेंढक), Indian flying frog (भारतीय उड़ान मेंढक), giant wrinkled frog (विशाल झुर्रीदार मेंढक), Cricket frogs (क्रिकेट मेंढक), Night frog(रात का मेंढक) and long snout tree frog (लंबे समय से सूँघने वाला ट्रीफ्रॉग) and Indian purple frog (बैंगनी मेंढक). The skittering frog is one of the most widely distributed and oriental frogs also known as Indian Skipper Frog. Skittering Frogs are often seen at the edge of bodies of water with their eyes above the water. In India purple frog, dancing frog along with other colorful frogs such as Malabar hill frogs, flying frogs, gliding frogs and long snouted treefrog are found in natural habitats of subtropical or tropical dry forests. The word “Manduka” "मांडुका" is Sanskrit for frog, literally meaning the “Frog Upanishads”. The book explains the meaning of the sound AUM as three stages of consciousness – A: Wakefulness; U: Dream state and M: deep sleep.



Korean:  도마뱀 (Tomabaem)

Tomabaem refers to all lizards in a generic way, but when used as a specific name it refers to Scincella vandenburghi, the Korean skink/Tsushima ground skink/Tsushima smooth skink. As with many skinks, the tomabaem can detach its tail when threatened by predators, so the expression ‘like a lizard cutting off its tail’ refers to the act of abandoning someone who is no longer of use to you, in order to minimize your own losses. In general, it is not used as an expression of admiration. 

Japanese: トカゲ | 蜥蜴 (Tokage)

Chinese: 蜥蜴 (Xīyì)

The common lizards in China are 绿长鬣蜥(Lǜ cháng xīyì, “Chinese Water Dragon”; Physignathus cocincinus), 中國鱷蜥(Zhōngguó è xī, “Chinese crocodile lizard“; Shinisaurus crocodilurus), 中國壁虎(Zhōngguó bìhǔ,“Gray's Chinese gecko”; Gekko chinensis), and so on. In fact, Chinese people are more familiar with the small lizard 壁虎(gecko) than the larger one, and its name denotes “wall tiger.” Gecko is considered one of the five poisonous creatures in ancient Chinese culture, and it is also used as Chinese traditional medicine to relieve various illness.

 Lizard / छिपकली

The common house gecko ( (छिपकली) ) in India Hemidactylus frenatus हेमिडैक्टाइलस फ्रेनेटस (not to be confused with the Mediterranean species Hemidactylus turcicus known as Mediterranean house gecko), is a gecko native of Southeast Asia. It is also known as the Pacific house gecko, the Asian house gecko, wall gecko, house lizard, or moon lizard.



Korean: 뱀 (Paem)

Japanese: ヘビ | 蛇 (Hebi)

Chinese: 蛇 (Shé)

In China the common snakes are 中華眼鏡蛇(Zhōnghuá yǎnjìng shé, “Chinese cobra”; Naja atra), 唐水蛇(Táng shǔi shé, “Chinese water snake”; Enhydris chinensis), 中國小頭蛇(Zhōngguó xiǎotóu shé, “Chinese kukri snake”; Oligodon chinensis), 珊瑚蛇(Shánhú shé, “Coral snake”; Micrurus sp.)金環蛇(Jīnhuán shé, “Banded krait”; Bungarus fasciatus) and so on. The Snake is called the Little Dragon in China, and it is one of the 12 zodiac signs of China(“Year of the Snake”). The symbolic cultural meanings of snake include not only sinisterness, mysteriousness, craftiness, but also longevity and fortune. The ancient Chinese worshiped the Snake and viewed it as the beginning of life and universe. In Chinese legend, the world is created by a deity with a human face and a snake’s body called zhúlóng (烛龙). It is said that he created the day and night by opening and closing his eyes and the season winds by breathing. Also, the Chinese Adam and Eve, Nǚwā (女娲) and Fúxī (伏羲) are also recorded to have snakes from the waist down in many artifacts of Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD).

India (साँप


The four venomous snake species responsible for causing the greatest number of medically significant human snake bite cases on the Indian Subcontinent (mostly in India) are sometimes collectively referred to as the Big Four. They are as follows:

  • Common kraitBungarus caeruleus
  • Russell's viperDaboia russelii
  • Indian saw-scaled viperEchis carinatus
  • Indian cobraNaja naja

The common krait is responsible for the most snake bites, followed by the Russell's viper, the saw-scaled viper, and the Indian cobra.



Korean: 달팽이 (Talp'aengi)

Chinese: 蜗牛/蝸牛 (Wōniú)



Korean: 애벌레

Chinese: 毛虫/毛蟲 (Máochóng)


Praying Mantis

Chinese: 螳螂 (Tángláng)

Korean: 사마귀



Korean: 쥐 (Chwi), 생쥐 (Saengchwi)

In Korean 쥐 (chwi) is used for both rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Mus musculus), but when referring specifically to mice the term 생쥐 (saengchwi) is used; the prefix 생(saeng) indicates something ‘small’ but is actually derived from 생강(saenggang), which means ginger.

Chinese: 鼠(Shǔ)/老鼠(Lǎoshǔ)

Mouse, or rat, is also known colloquially as “耗子(haozi)” in China. The Year of the Rat is the first zodiac sign in the Chinese zodiac cycle (“Year of the Rat”), but the rat is seldom praised. A popular saying, "A mouse crossing the street will be beaten by whomever sees it," bespeaks the dislike for the creature. There are other ancient Chinese sayings about rats, such as "shrewder than the Rat" and "as changeable as the Rat." People use the former to describe those who are very quick-witted, and the latter to describe those who adapt themselves quickly to changing conditions.



Easier 3-D version:


Korean: 토끼 (T'okki)

Japanese: ウサギ | 兎 (Usagi)

Chinese: 兔(Tù)/兔子 (Tùzǐ)

In China the common rabbits are 華南兔(Huánán tù, “Chinese hare”; Lepus sinensis ), 東北兔(Dōngběi tù, “Manchurian hare”; Lepus mandshuricus), 雪兔(Xuě tù, “Mountain hare”; Lepus timidus), and 草兔 (Cǎo tù, “Cape hare”; Lepus capensis). Rabbit is one of the 12 zodiac signs of China (“Year of the Rabbit”). In China, the symbolic cultural meanings of the rabbit are closely related to its living habits, including vigilance, wittiness, cautiousness, deftness, self-protection, and the moon. The most famous ancient legend about a “moon rabbit”, a mythical figure who lives with the Moon goddess Chang'e  and constantly pounding the elixir of life for her (“The Moon Rabbit in Legend and Culture”).


Korean: 고양이 (Koyangi)

Chinese: 猫/貓 (Māo)


Bear and Bear cub


Bear cub:

The bear videos are a little advanced. Starting with a bigger piece of paper will help.

Korean: 곰 (Kom), 새끼 곰 (Saekki Kom)

새끼 (saekki) is a term used for the young of animals; so a saekki kom is a baby bear and a saekki 고양이 (koyangi) will be a baby cat, or a kitten. We don’t use this term for humans, except as an insult, in which case it is usually paired with 개 (Kae), “dog”.

One of the most famous Korean creation myths is of 웅녀(熊女/Ungnyŏ). A bear and a tiger wished to be human, so they petitioned 환웅(桓雄/Hwanung); he gave them mugwort and garlic and told them to stay in a dark cave away from sunlight for a hundred days, eating only the garlic and mugwort. The tiger was not able to endure this and ended up leaving the cave, but the bear persevered and in twenty-one (thrice seven, a magical number) days became a woman. She had no husband, since the tiger had left, so she married Hwanung instead and became the mother of 단군 (檀君/Tan’gun), the founder of Korea.

Japanese: コグマ | 小熊 (Koguma)

Chinese: 小熊 (Xiǎoxióng)



Easier version:


Korean: 다람쥐

Chinese: 花栗鼠 (Huā lìshǔ)


Maple Leaf

In BC and especially in Greater Vancouver where UBC is, you might see a Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), Vine Maple (Acer circinatum), or a Douglas Maple (Acer glabrum).

Korean: 단풍나무 (Tanp'ung namu)

Tanp’ung (丹楓) refers to the phenomenon of autumn leaves changing color, and the tanp’ung namu (나무, “tree”) refers to Acer palmatum as representative of this showy phenomenon. 



Korean: 버섯


The well-known, cartoony “red with white spots” mushroom is a fly agaric or fly amanita (Amanita muscaria). 



3-D version:

Korean: 토마토 (T’omat’o)



Korean: 옥수수 (Oksusu)

In the Sea


There are many video tutorials for paper fish, but not too many that look like BC’s own special fish, salmon! I think this one is similar in shape:

This one can leap upstream:

The Pacific Salmon Foundation says that there are seven species of salmon in BC: Sockeye, Chinook, Coho, Pink, Chum, Steelhead Trout, and Cutthroat Trout. If you have seen a salmon decal on a roadside drain, it is a reminder that the drain leads to local creeks, i.e. salmon habitats. There are many voluntary, non-profit organizations that look after waterways and watersheds and advocate for better environmental stewardship in BC; they usually have names like ‘watershed society’ or ‘streamkeepers’, and many host events in the spring when they release salmon fry into the streams while educating the public.

Korean: 연어 (Yŏnŏ)



This one is advanced!

Korean: 문어 (Munŏ)

Japanese: タコ | 蛸 (Tako)

Chinese: 章鱼/章魚 (Zhāngyú) | 八爪鱼/八爪魚 (Bāzhuǎyú) 



Korean: 가리비 (Karibi)

Chinese: 扇贝/扇貝(Shànbèi)



Korean: 게 (Ke)


Sea Otter

Easier Version:

Korean: 해달

Chinese: 海獭/海獺 (Hǎitǎ)

Those that Fly


Korean: 벌새 (Pŏlsae, “bee-bird”)

Chinese: 蜂鸟/蜂鳥(Fēngniǎo)

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓: tin̓



The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia says that barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are in decline in BC. Last year, barn swallows were mainly nesting in the police stables in Stanley Park, where they took the horsehair to line their nests and in return ate all the stinging horseflies in the barns.

Korean: 제비 (Chebi), Hirundo rustica

In Korea, swallows often build their mud-and-straw nests under the eaves of houses; they do not mind being close to people, and will fly in and out all day bringing food to their young. It’s considered good fortune on the house that has a swallow’s nest, so folk will leave the nest undisturbed and put a little board under the nest to prevent, erm, ‘drips’ from falling to the porch area below. When the parent bird returns from hunting insects, the young all open their beaks wide and clamor for attention, so the term ‘swallow chicks’ will often refer to having many young children (and perhaps not enough resources to feed all of them!), thus implying a busy parenthood. A cheery and familiar sight, swallows herald the return of spring when they come to the peninsula to mate and nest, then they evoke farewells and the end of things when they leave in the fall. 

Chinese: 燕子(Yànzǐ)



Simple version:

3-D version:

Korean: 갈매기

Chinese: 海鸥/海鷗 (Hǎi'ōu)



Korean: 잠자리

Chinese: 蜻蜓 (Qīngtíng)


Korean: 매미 (Maemi)

Chinese: 蝉/蟬 (Chán) | 知了 (Zhīliǎo)



Whites-and-yellows type, easier:

Swallowtail type: Model Author Evi Binzinger

Korean: 나비 (Nabi)

배추흰나비 (Pieris rapae)


Chinese: 蝴蝶 (Húdié)

In China the common butterflies are 鳳蝶(Fèngdié, “Swallowtail butterfly”; Papilionidae), 弄蝶(Nòngdié, “Skipper”;  Hesperiidae), 粉蝶(Fěndié,“white butterfly”; Pieridae), 灰蝶(Huīdié,“Gossamer-winged butterflies”; Lycaenidae), 蜆蝶(Xiǎndié, “Metalmark butterflies”; Riodinidae),蛺蝶(Xiádié, “Brush-footed butterflies”;Nymphalidae). In Chinese culture, the most famous Chinese butterfly is the one in the vision of the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (庄周梦蝶, “The Butterfly Dream”). “Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know that he was Zhuang Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn't know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the ‘Transformation of Things’.”