Some names are notable for their lack of creativity:
Eucosma bobana, E. cocana, E. dodana, E. fofana, E. hohana,
E. kokana, E. lolana, E. momana, E. popana, E. rorana, E. sosana,
E. totana, E. vovana, E. fandana, E. gandana, E. handana, E. kandana,
E. mandana, E. nandana, E. randana, E. sandana, E. tandana, E.
vandana, E. wandana, E. xandana, E. yandana, E. zandana, E. nomana,
E. sonomana, E. vomonana, E. womonana, E. boxeana, E. canariana,
E. floridana, E. idahoana, E. miscana, E. subinvicta; Kearfott,
1907 (olethreutid moths)
Ophiomyia prima, O. secunda, O. tertia, O. quarta, O. quinta,
O. sexta, O. septima, O. octava, O. nona, O. undecima, O. duodecima;
Spencer, 1969 (Agromyzid flies) Latin for "first", "second",
"third", etc. Why no O. decima?
Solpugarda Roewer, 1933
Solpugassa Roewer, 1933
Solpugeira Roewer, 1933
Solpugella Roewer, 1933
Solpugema Roewer, 1933
Solpugopa Roewer, 1933
Solpugorna Roewer, 1933
Solpuguna Roewer, 1933
Solpugyla Roewer, 1933
Solpugelis Roewer, 1934
Solpugiba Roewer, 1934
Solpugista Roewer, 1934 (all solpugids)
Aegrotocatellus Adrian and Edgecombe (trilobite)
Latin for "sick puppy".
Boselaphus tragocamelus (Pallas) (nilgai, an Indian
antelope) This translates to "ox-deer goat-camel"
Brachyanax thelestrephones Evenhuis, 1981 (fly) The name
translates from Greek to "little chief nipple twister".
Eucritta melanolimnetes Clark, 1998 (fossil amphibian)
Loosely translates as "Creature from the black lagoon".
Homo diluvii testis Scheuchzer, 1726
translates "Man, a witness to the Flood" because it was thought at the
time to be the remains of a man drowned in Noah's Flood. Later it was
found to be a fossil salamander and renamed Andrias
scheuchzeri. Andrias means "man-image", a relic of the
Mabuya perrotetti (Dumeril and Bibron)
(skink) "Perrotetti" means "small-breasted dog." There is also
Radula perrotetti (liverwort) and
Pomadasys peroteti (Cuvier, 1830) (a fish,
the parrot grunt).
(theropod dinosaur) Translates as "big
dead lizard." (The original name for this genus, Syntarsus
previously taken by a small living beetle. There is some controversy
because this genus was renamed by entomologist Mike Ivie after he was
unable to reach Raath, who described the dinosaur
Piseinotecus divae Er. Marcus, 1955 (gastropod)
"Piseinotecus" means "I stepped on Teco." Teco was a dog belonging to a
diva. One of the Marcuses (Evelyne or Ernst) stepped on the dog on the
way to the kitchen in the middle of the night.
Pulchrapollia Dyke & Cooper, 2000 (Lower Eocene parrot)
Translates to "Pretty Polly".
Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun, 1903 (squid relative)
"Vampire squid from Hell".
Bufonaria borisbeckeri Parth, 1996 (bursid sea snail)
Etymology: "Ich widme die neue Art Boris Becker, dem meines Erachtens
größten deutschen Einzelsportler aller Zeiten."
[Spixiana 19(1): 129]
Mastagophora dizzydeani Eberhard, 1984 (spider) Named
after a baseball player. The spider uses a sticky ball on the end of a
thread to catch its prey.
Comedians and Cartoonists
Campsicnemius charliechaplini Evenhuis, 1996
(dolichopodid fly) "Etymology: This species is named in honor of the
great silent movie comedian, Charlie Chaplin, because of the curious
tendency of this fly to die with its midlegs in a bandy-legged
position." [Bishop Mus. Occ. Pap. 0(45):54]
Baeturia laureli and
B. hardyi de Boer, 1996 (cicadas)
Montypythonoides riversleighensis Smith & Plane, 1985
Strigiphilus garylarsoni Clayton, ~1989 (owl
louse) "I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was
going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have
to grab these opportunities when they come along." - Gary
Sula abbotti costelloi Steadman, Schubel & Pahlavan,
1988 (a subspecies of Abbot's booby, recently extinct)
Microchilo elgrecoi Bleszynski, 1966 (crambid
moth) After the Spanish painter El Greco. [Acta
Zool. Cracoviensia 11: 451]
Microchilo murilloi Bleszynski, 1966 (crambid
moth) After the Mexican painter Murillo (Dr. Atl). [Acta
Zool. Cracoviensia 11: 451]
Pseudoparamys cezannei Hartenberger, 1987
(Ischyromyidae, extinct rodent)
Pseudocatharylla gioconda Bleszynski, 1964
(crambid moth) "Described from a unique female" and "very distinctive."
[Acta Zool. Cracoviensia 11: 683]
Arthurdactylus conan-doylei Frey & Martill, 1994
(pterosaur) Named after Arthur Conan Doyle in honor of his story The
Lost World, which is set in jungle similar to where the fossil was
found, and in which a living pterosaur is brought back to
Draculoides bramstokeri Harvey & Humphreys, 1995
(spider) Bram Stoker was the author of Dracula.
Bienosaurus crichtonii, 2000 [nomen nudum]
(small biped dinosaur) Named after Jurassic Park author Michael
Crichton, but not published with a description. Reassigned to
B. lufengensis Dong, 2001.
Idiomacromerus longfellowi Girault, 1917
(torymid wasp) Named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Ablerus longfellowi (wasp)
Goethaeana shakespearei Girault, 1920
Legionella shakespearei Verma et al., 1992
Psephophorus terrypratchetti Köhler, 1995 (Eocene
fossil turtle) Terry Pratchett wrote a series of fantasy books set on a
world carried on the back of a giant turtle. [J. Royal
Soc. N.Z. 25:371]
Mozartella beethoveni Girault, 1926 (encyrtid
Gnathia beethoveni Paul & Menzies, 1971
Bishopina mozarti Bonaduce, Masoli & Pugliese,
Fernandocrambus chopinellus Bleszynski, 1967
(crambid moth) [Acta Zool. Cracoviensia 12: 39]
Funkotriplogynium iagobadius Seeman & Walter, 1997
(mite) from Iago, "James" and badius, "brown," named after
James Brown, the King of Funk.
Petula Clark, 1971 (tineid)
Mackenziurus johnnyi, M. joeyi, M. deedeei,
M. ceejayi Adrian and Edgecombe, 1997 (trilobites) Named after
Bushiella (Jugaria) beatlesi Rzhavsky, 1993
Greeffiella beatlei Lorenzen, 1969 (nematode)
Lorenzen doesn't state the etymology, but the worm's shagginess suggests
a Beatles haircut.
Avalanchurus lennoni, A. starri Edgecombe &
Chatterton, 1993 (trilobites) Named for Beatles John Lennon and
Struszia mccartneyi Edgecombe & Chatterton,
1993 (trilobite) for Paul McCartney.
Elvisaurus Holmes, 1993 [nomen nudum]
(dinosaur) so called for it's 'pompadour-like' crest. Now
Masiakasaurus knopfleri Sampson, 2001 (dinosaur) Named
after Dire Straits singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler. Sampson said,
"Whenever we played Dire Straits in the quarry, we found more
Masiakasaurus, and when we played something else, we didn't." Knopfler
replied, "The fact that it's a dinosaur is certainly apt, but I'm happy
to report that I'm not in the least bit vicious."
Dicrotendipes thanatogratus Epler, 1987 (chironomid)
From Gk "thanatos", dead, and Latin "gratus", grateful; after the
Cryptocercus garciai Burnside, Smith and Kambhampati,
1998 (wood roach) named for Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry
Garcia. [WWW J. of Biol. 4-1] (There's also an asteroid named Garcia,
shortly after his death.)
Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger. See also the genus
Anomphalus jaggerius Plas, 1972 (fossil gastropod)
[J. of Paleo. 46: 249-260]
Perirehaedulus richardsi (trilobite) for
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.
Arcticalymene viciousi, A. rotteni, A. jonesi,
A. cooki, A. matlocki Adrian and Edgecombe (trilobites) for
the Sex Pistols.
Hyla stingi Kaplan, 1994 (Columbian tree frog) Named
after the British rock star Sting in recognition of his work for the
Villa manillae Evenhuis, 1993 (bee fly)
Inspired by Millie Vanillie. [Idesia 12:19]
Zappa (Roberts), 1989
(goby) "in honour of Frank Zappa for
his articulate and sagacious defense of the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution." [Rec. of Austrl. Museum
suppl 11: 53] Murdy,
who renamed the genus,
, "I like his music."
Amaurotoma zappa Plas, 1972 (fossil gastropod) [J.
Paleo. 46: 249-260]
Pachygnatha zappa Bosmans and Bosselaers,
1994 (orb-weaver spider) It has a black marking under its abdomen
curiously reminiscent (at least to Bosmans and Bosselaers) of Frank
Phialella zappai Boero, 1987
Named as part of Ferdinando Boero's plan to get to meet Frank Zappa.
"There is nothing I'd like better than having a jellyfish named after
me" - Frank Zappa. (details
[J. Nat. Hist.
There is also an asteroid named Zappafrank.
Actors and Fimmakers
Attenborosaurus Bakker, 1993 (plesiosaur) "in
honor of the naturalist and filmmaker David Attenborough, whose
childhood fascination with Liassic plesiosaurs sparked a brilliant
career in scientific journalism."
Calponia harrisonfordi Platnick, 1993 (caponiid spider)
Named after Harrison Ford in appreciation of his narrating a
Norasaphus monroeae Fortey (trilobite)
after Marilyn Monroe; it has an hourglass shaped glabella.
Utahraptor spielbergi Bonar, Lassieur, McCafferty &
Voci, ~1992 [nomen nudum] (theropod dinosaur) Named after Jurassic
Park director Steven Spielberg. The raptors in the movie were
larger than any then known, until this raptor was announced the week the
movie premiered. Apparently, it was not adequately described in the
rush to name it. Reassigned to U. ostrommaysorum Kirkland,
Gaston & Burge, 1993.
Honorifics naming scientists who have done some work related to the
organism named after them are too numerous to mention. The names here
stand out from that crowd.
Archimedes Lesueur, 1842 (bryozoan with a corkskrew
Citrobacter freudi (coliform
Cyclocephala freudi Endrödi, 1963
Lepithrix freudi Schein, 1959 (scarab)
Hippocratea (tropical vine) and its family
Hippocrateaceae, named after Hippocrates.
Leonardo davincii Bleszynski, 1965 (pyralid
Wallacea darwini Hill, 1919 (stratiomyid fly)
There are more than 120 species (and 9 genera) named after Darwin. This
species is named also after Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discover of the
theory of evolution.
Philosophers and Religious Leaders
Buddhaites Diener, 1895 (mollusk)
Confucius Distant, 1907 (bug)
Confuciusornis sanctus Hou, Zhou, Gu, and Gang,
1995 (feathered dinosaur) "holy Confucius' bird".
Dalailama Staudinger, 1896 (bombycid moth)
Orontobia dalailama De Freina, 1997 (tiger
moth) from Tibet. "Origo nominis: la nouvelle espèce est dédiée au chef
spirituel et politique du peuple tibétain actuellement opprimé: sa
Sainteté le Dalai Lama."
Political and Military Figures
Gazella bilkis (gazelle, recently extinct)
for King Solomon's paramour Bilkis, the Queen of Sheba. The gazelle
came from Yemen, which may have been Sheba.
Franklinia Bartram, ~1770 (tree, Theaceae)
Named after Ben Franklin. Extinct in the wild shortly after its
discovery when the one grove of the trees (on the Altamaha R., GA) was
cleared for farmland, but the Bartrams preserved seeds, and the tree
is now a widespread ornamental.
Anophthalmus hitleri Scheibel, 1933 (blind
cave beetle) Named by an amateur entomologist admirer of the
Fürher. It is found in only five Slovenian caves and is endangered
by collectors of Hitler memorabilia. [Entomologische Blätter
Roechlingia hitleri Guthörl, 1934 (paleodictyopteran)
See Canad. J. Zool. 61:1684-86 for discussion of appropriateness
of the name. That article considers it a junior synonym of Sclepasma
gigas Handlirsch, 1911.
Megalonyx jeffersoni 1822 (ground sloth)
Thomas Jefferson acquired a "great claw" from a West Virginia cave and,
in 1796, his letter about it was read at the American Philosophical
Society meeting. (Jefferson thought it was a lion.) This is the
earliest record of American vertebrate paleontology.
Mandelia (sea slug) after Nelson Mandela.
Sequoia (redwood) named after Sequoyah,
Cherokee chief and inventer of the Cherokee written language. (It is
also one of the shortest words with all five vowels.)
Washingtonia (fan palm) after president
Bobbichthys (fossil fish)
Bobkabata kabatabobbus (parasitic copepod) Named after
Cartwrightia cartwrighti Cartwright, 1967 (scarab
beetle) Islas established the genus in 1958 in honor of coleopterist
Oscar L. Cartwright, who later named this species for his
Geoballus caputalbus Crabill, 1969 (millipede) Named
after its collectors, George Ball and Donald Whitehead.
Gretchena delicatana, G. dulciana, G. amatana,
G. concubitana Heinrich, 1923 (moths) named by taxonomist Carl
Heinrich after his love interest(?) Gretchen; the names are derived, in
order, from "delicate", "sweet", "beloved", "lying together".
Hoia hoi Avdeev & Kazatchenko, 1986 (parasitic copepod)
Named after Ju-Shey Ho.
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri Lazell, 1984
(Lower Keys marsh rabbit) An endangered rabbit named after Playboy
founder Hugh Hefner.
Names in this category are numerous. These are just a sample.
Greek and Roman
Achelousaurus horneri Sampson, 1995
(ceratopsian dinosaur). This hornless ceratopsian evolved from horned
ancestors. It was named for Achelous, a Greek river god whose horn was
broken in a battle with Heracles. The species name (for paleontologist
Jack Horner) replaces the lost horn.
Argonauta argo (paper nautilus) Named for
Jason's ship and its crew.
Damocles (Carboniferous shark) The males had
an elaborate projection from the back that ended poised over its
Hades Westwood, 1851 (riodinid butterfly)
Athene hades (African lycaenid butterfly)
Harpymimus Barsbold & Perle, 1984 (theropod
Pegasus Linnaeus, 1758 (seamoth fish)
Phaeton Linnaeus, 1758 (tropicbird)
Poseidon Herklots, 1851 (crustacean)
Titanus giganteus (L) (cerambycid beetle)
The world's largest (but not heaviest) beetle.
Zeus Linnaeus, 1758 (dory fish)
Clossiana frigga, C. freija (Thunberg, 1791)
Clossiana thore (Hübner, 1803)
Eoconodon nidhoggi Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene
mammal) Named for the Nordic corpse-eating underworld serpent (and found
in Purgatory Hill).
Ragnarok Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal,
synonym of Baioconodon Gazin, 1941) for Norse end times, "Doom of
Christian and Middle East
Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus (Polemoniaceae)
Holy ghost Ipomopsis, an endangered plant.
Mephisto Tyler, 1966 (spikefish)
Satan Hubbs & Bailey, 1947 (catfish) A blind unpigmented
fish from artesian wells 1000-1250 feet underground, near San Antonio,
TX. "Satan eurystomus signifies 'wide-mouthed prince of
darkness.'" [Occasional Papers Mus. Zool., U. of Mich. 499:
Paraxerus lucifer (rodent)
Pudu mephistopheles (Northern Pudu deer)
Bubalus mephistopheles (Hopwood, 1925) (extinct
Daimonelix ("Devil's corkscrew", nine-foot
spiral tubes, trace fossil burrows of the Miocene beaver
Purgatorius (Paleocene fossil primate) Named
after Purgatory Hill, Montana?
Stygimoloch Galton & Sues, 1983
(pachycephalosaur) from "Styx", for the Hell Creek Formation; "Moloch",
after an Ammonite god.
Ammonoidea (ammonite, fossil cephalopod) Named after
the Egyptian god Amun (Ammon), who was represented by a ram, because the
shells resemble ram's horns--in particular, the Horn of Ammon, the
cornucopia from Roman myth.
Phoenix (date palm)
Sphinx L., 1758 (sphinx moth)
Cynopterus sphinx (short-eared fruit bat)
Apsaravis 2002 (fossil bird) 'Apsara'
(Sanskrit), winged consorts prominent in Buddhist and Hindu art, plus
'avis' (Gk), bird.
Garudimimus Barsbold, 1981 (theropod
dinosaur) "Garuda mimic"; Garuda is the Hindu prince of
Kali Lloyd, 1909 (deepsea swallower fish)
Ramapithecus (Miocene ape) from Pakistan; named
Sivapithecus (Miocene ape) from India; named
Sivatherium (Pleistocene giraffid) from
Other African, Asian, Pacific
Azdarcho Nessov, 1984 (Uzbekistan pterosaur)
named for an Uzbek dragon.
Kakuru Molnar & Pledge, 1980 (theropod
dinosaur) "Rainbow serpent" from South Australia. It is the only known
dinosaur preserved as opal.
Quetzalcoatlus northropi Lawson, 1975
(pterosaur) Named after an Aztec god and an aircraft designer. The
pterosaur was as large as an ultra-light plane.
Chrysina quetzalcoatli (jewel scarab)
Other Native American
Anhanguera Campos & Kellner, 1985 (Brazilian
pterosaur) named for a Tupian spirit.
Tapejara Kellner, 1990 (Brazilian pterosaur)
"The old being" from Tupi mythology.
Tupuxuara Kellner & Campos, 1989 (pterosaur
from Brazil) named for a Tupian "familiar spirit".
Grendelius (Jurassic ichthyosaur) named for
Iago Compagno & Springer, 1971 (shark)
Oedipus rex (salamander)
Oedipodrilus oedipus Holt (worm)
Saguinus oedipus oedipus (cotton-top
Ozymandias Jordan & Gilbert, 1919 (fossil
18th - 19th Century Writings
Borogovia Osmólska, 1987 (theropod
dinosaur) from "borogove", a mimsy creature from Lewis Carroll's poem
Dracula Luer 1978 (orchid) The orchid is reddish-black
and looks like a bat. The name has also been used erroneously for the
pigeon genus Ducula.
Draculo Snyder, 1911 (dragonet fish)
Dracunculus (round worm)
D. medinensis is the largest tissue parasite of man (it can grow
longer than 3 feet). It is possible to extract the worm by winding it
slowly, over a period of days or weeks, around a stick. This may be the
source of the physician's caduceus. D. medinensis is on WHO's hit
list and may soon be eradicated.
Ichabodcraniosaurus Novacek 1996 [nomen
nudum] (dinosaur) Named for a character in Irving's Legend of Sleepy
Hollow. It was found without a head; a head was found later, but it
is uncertain whether the head belongs to the skeleton.
20th - 21st Century Writings
Irritator challengeri Martill, Cruikshank, Frey, Small &
Clarke, 1996 (small therapod dinosaur) "challengeri" refers to
Professor Challenger, a character from Doyle's The Lost
World with an irritating personality.
Pimoa cthulhu Hormiga, 1994 (spider) Named after
H. P. Lovecraft's evil god.
Madeleinea nodo, M. odon Bálint & Johnson,
1994 (lycaenid butterflies) Named after half-brothers in Vladimir
Nabokov's Pale Fire, reflecting their close
Paralycaeides hazelea Bálint & Johnson,
P. shade Bálint, 1993 (lycaenids)
After characters in Nabokov's Pale Fire.
Madeleinea lolita Bálint, 1993,
Pseudolucia charlotte, P. clarea Bálint
and Johnson, 1993,
P. humbert Bálint and Johnson, 1995
(lycaenids) Named after characters in Nabokov's
Pseudolucia hazeorum Bálint and Johnson,
(lycaenid) Referring both to the hazy wing color and to the
Haze family from Lolita
Nabokov himself was an expert on lycaenids, particularly the genus
. Other lycaenid
derive from Nabokov stories, too.
Film Characters and Creatures
Bambiraptor Burnham, Durstler, Currie, Bakker, Zhou & Ostrom,
(theropod dinosaur) after Disney's Bambi, because of its
small size. (See also a
thread which includes much discussion of the
appropriateness of the name.)
Chloridops regiskongi James & Olson, 1991 (extinct
Hawaiian finch) Described by a local journalist as "a real King Kong
finch", thus the name.
Gojirasaurus Carpenter, 1997 (theropod
dinosaur) "Gojira" is the Japanese name for Godzilla (but the dinosaur
was found in New Mexico).
Godzillius Yager, 1986 (remipede crustacean) These are
the largest such crustaceans, from underwater caves in the Bahamas. The
family Godzilliidae takes its name from this genus.
Godzilligonomus Yager, 1989 (godzilliid) The
smallest remipede. [Bull. of Marine Sci. 44(3):1195]
Pleomothra Yager, 1989 (godzilliid) Named after
Mothra. [Bull. of Marine Sci. 44(3):1195]
Sinemys gamera (Japanese fossil turtle) Named after the
giant Japanese fire-breathing flying turtle. The fossil has wing-like
projections from its shell.
Polemistus chewbacca Menke, 1983 (wasp)
Polemistus vaderi Vincent, 1983 (wasp)
Agra sasquatch Erwin, 1982 (carabid) with big
Cinderella Steyskal, 1949 (heleomyzid fly)
Gargoyleosaurus Carpenter, Miles, & Cloward,
1998 (ankylosaurid dinosaur)
Goniacodon? hiawathae Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal) for Hiawatha, legendary founder of the Iriquois
Merlinia (trilobite) Named for King Arthur's
Excalibosaurus McGowan, 1986 (Jurassic
icthyosaur) Named after King Arthur's sword. Excalibosaurus
has a swordlike upper jaw.
Sanctacaris Briggs & Collins, 1988 (fossil primitive
chelicerate) Literally "Santa claws" [see Gould, Wonderful Life,
J. R. R. Tolkien
Aletodon mellon (Van Valen, 1978)
(paleocene mammal) "mellon," Elvish for "friend," was the password into
Ancalagon Conway Morris, 1977 (cambrian priapulid)
From a dragon from Tolkien.
Ankalagon Van Valen, 1980 (paleocene
mesonychid mammal) Renamed from Ancalagon because it was
Anisonchus eowynae Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene
mammal, synonym of A. athelas Van Valen 1978) for Éowyn,
Princess of Rohan. "Athelas" was a Middle Earth healing
Bomburia Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal)
Bubogonia bombadili and
Protoselene bombadili (Van Valen, 1978)
(paleocene mammals) after Tom Bombadil.
Claenodon mumak (Van Valen, 1978) (paleocene
mammal) after Mûmak, the Middle Earth elephant
Deltatherium durini Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal) Several notable Dwarves were named Durin.
Earendil Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal,
synonym of Mimatuta Van Valen, 1978) for Eärendil, father of
Fimbrethil ambaronae Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal, synonym of Oxyacodon agapetillus (Cope 1884))
Fimbrethil was an Ent-maiden; Ambaróna was a name for the Ents'
Gwaihiria Nauman (diapriid wasp) Named for
Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles.
Litaletes ondolinde Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal) for Ondolindë, an Elven city.
Mimotricentes mirielae Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal, synonym of Loxolophus hyattianus (Cope, 1885))
after Míriel, an Elf.
Mimatuta morgoth Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene
mammal) for the "dark enemy of the world."
Mimatuta minuial Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene
mammal) "minuial" is Elvish for dawn's twilight.
Mithrandir Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal)
one of the names of the wizard Gandalf.
Niphredil radagasti Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal, now in genus Paleotomus) Niphredil is a small
Middle Earth flower. Radagast the Brown was a wizard.
Oxyprimus galadrielae Van Valen, 1978
(arctocyonid paleocene mammal) for elf Lady Galadriel.
Pericompsus bilbo Erwin (carabid) for the title
character of The Hobbit. So called because "it was short, fat,
and had hairy feet."
Platymastus palantir Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal) The palantír was a magical viewing
Protungulatum gorgun Van Valen, 1978
(paleocene mammal) "gorgûn" is a term for Orcs.
Smeagolia Hedqvist, 1973 (pteromalid wasp) Another name
Thangorodrim thalion Van Valen (paleocene
mammal, synonym of Oxyclaenus Cope 1884) Thangorodrim are the
three tallest towers of Endor; Thalion is a character from Tolkien's
Tinuviel Van Valen (paleocene mammal) for a most
beautiful elf. The name is Elvish for nightingale.
Batman Whitley, 1956 (fish)
Ninjamys Gaffney, 1992 (fossil turtle) Etymology:
"Ninja, in allusion to that totally rad, fearsome foursome epitomizing
shelled success; meys, turtle."
Erechthias beeblebroxi Robinson & Nelson, 1993 (tineid)
with a false head; after Zaphod Beeblebrox, two-headed character from
Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Bidenichthys beeblebroxi (triple-fin blenny)
with a false head pattern.
Fiordichthys slartibartfasti (triple-fin
blenny) Named for Hitchhiker's Guide character
Slartibartfast, who is noted for designing fjords.
Conus tribblei (marine snail) Named after a pet cat
named "Tribbles", which was named after the furry creatures from Star
Amblyoproctus boondocksius Ratcliffe (scarab)
from the boondocks.
Ambondro mahabo Flynn & Wyss (Jurassic
mammal) named for the Madagascan village of Ambondromahabo.
Apolysis humbugi Evenhuis, 1985 (bombyliid
fly) From Humbug Creek, CA.
Oligodranes humbug Evenhuis, 1985 (bombyliid fly)
Another from Humbug Creek.
Gwyneddichtis gwyneddensis Bock, 1959 (fossil fish),
Gwyneddichnium gwyneddensis Bock (fossil reptile
footprints) both from the Gwynedd Formation at the Gwynedd Tunnel in
Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania.
Myzocallis kahawaluokalani Kirkaldy (aphid) The Hawaiian
name supposedly means, "you fish on your side of the lagoon and I'll fish
on the other, and no one will fish in the middle."
Navahopus Baird, 1980 (Jurassic footprints)
from the Navajo Sandstone
Prosaurolophus blackfeetensis Horner, 1992
(duck-billed dinosaur) found on a Blackfeet Indian Reservation,
Panama canalia Marsh, 1993 (braconid)
Alabama Grote, 1895 (lep)
Argentina Linnaeus, 1758 (fish) Probably NOT named after
the country, but for the Latin for "silver" (which the country is also
Asia Pergens, 1887 (coelentrate; nomen nudum)
Australia Girault, 1928 (parasitic wasp)
Babylonia Schlüter, 1838 (mollusk)
Burma Kirkaldy, 1904 (bug)
China Burr, 1899 (orthopteran)
Colombia Rang, 1835 (mollusk)
Cuba Dyar, 1919 (lep)
Florida Baird, 1858 (bird)
Mexico Spilman, 1972 (jumping shore beetle)
Samoa Sörensen, 1886 (arachnid)
Texas Kirkaldy, 1904 (bug)
Cypraea isabella L. (Isabella's cowrie) Linnaeus named
this parchment-colored, brown-streaked shell after the color "Isabella."
The color was named after Archduchess Isabella of Austria, who vowed not
to change her underwear until her father, Philip II, won the siege of
Ostend. The siege lasted three years.
Roberthoffstetteria nationalgeographica Marshall,
de Muizon & Sige, 1993 (Paleocene mammal) National Geographic
probably bankrolled the expedition which found this animal. (Robert
Hoffstetter is a paleontologist.)
Tabanus yuleanus Philip, 1950 (horse fly) Named in honor
of a memorable Christmas day in 1946.
Zen Jordan (dory fish)
Strategus mormon Burmeister (scarab)
Drugs and Alcohol
Agave tequilana (agave) from which
tequila is made.
Artemesia absintheum (wormwood) from which
absinthe is distilled.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewers yeast)
"Sugar-eating fungus of beer."
Schizosaccharomyces pombe (yeast) Isolated
from an East African beer. "Pombe" is the Swahili word for
Discoverichthys (deep-sea fish)
Sorolopha bruneiregalis Tuck & Robinson, 1994 (tortricid
moth) after Royal Brunei Airlines.
Qantassaurus Rich & Vickers-Rich, 1999
(Ornithopod dinosaur) Named after Quantas Airlines.
Stenotabanus sputnikulus Philip, 1958 (horse fly) Named
"in commemoration of the launching of the first man-made earth
satellite, while this species was being described. The fly also
undoubtedly buzzes about the earth, even though in a much more
Sex is an important part of biology. It is not surprising that it should
show up in names. How it shows up is another matter. . . .
Amorphophallus (Araceae) The name means
something like "misshapen penis" for the shape of the flowering part, or
spadix. Various species include Amorphophallus elegans, A. elatus,
A. excentricus, A. gigas, A. hottae, A. impressus, A. interruptus,
A. maximus, A. minor, A. odoratus, A. pendulus, A. purpurascens,
A. pygmaeus, A. rugosus, A. spectabilis, and
Clitoria L. (butterfly pea) Probably named
for the shape of the flowers.
Crepidula fornicata (slipper shell) This shell forms
stacks of individuals.
Monochamus titillator Fabricius (southern
whitespotted pine sawyer, a cerambycid beetle)
Orchidaceae (orchids) from Greek "orkhis", testicle,
referring to the appearance of the plants' pseudobulb. It was once
believed that terrestrial orchids sprang from the spilled semen of
Phallus impudicus (stinkhorn fungus, family
Phallaceae) There is also
Priapulus (priapulid) Means "little penis".
You need only look at one to see why.
Venus mercienaria (clam) Means "Venus selling
Afipia (bacterium) after AFIP: Armed Force
Institute of Pathology.
Afropolonia tgifi Goff, 1983 (chigger) from "Thank God
Atelopus farci Lynch (toad) Named after FARC,
the Colombian guerilla army, which used to be active in the toad's
habitat. If the army had not taken shelter there, the region probably
would have been devastated, and the toads would remain unknown to
Cedecea (bacterium) after CDC: Centers for Disease
Csiro Medvedev & Lawrence, 1984 (tenebrionid) after
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in
Desemzia (bacterium) after DSMZ: Deutsche
Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen.
Drinker nisti Bakker (therapod dinosaur)
after the National Institute of Standards and Technology (of the
U.S. Dept. of Commerce). "It's the only dinosaur named after an arm of
the federal government. Someday I'm going to name one after the I.R.S."
- Robert Bakker.
Helacyton Van Valen & Maiorana, 1991 (HeLa
cell culture). HeLa is a cell culture derived from a cervical cancer of
Henrietta Lacks, hence the name. ("Hela" was preoccupied by a
crustacean.) It is described as a new species because it is widespread
and feral. By some systematics conventions, it is a unicellular species
of human. [Evolutionary Theory 10: 71]
Lasioglossum gattaca Danforth & Wcislo, 1999 (halticid
bee) Referring to the genetic code. [Annals of ESA 92:
Natalichthys ori Winterbottom, 1980 (fish)
For the Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, South
Natalichthys sam Winterbottom, 1980 (fish)
Named for S.A.M., the South African Museum, where the specimen was
Physalaemus enesefae Heatwole, Solano & Heatwole, 1965
(leptodactylid frog) Named after NSF (National Science
Rusichthys Winterbottom, 1979 (fish) Named
for the collection at the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology (now the
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity); "R.U.S.I." (Rhodes
University Smith Institute) prefixes all specimen catalog
Mimoblennius rusi Springer & Spreitzer,
1978 (rusi blenny) gets its name from the same source.
Tianchiasaurus nedegoapeferkima Dong & Holden, 1992
(ankylosaurid dinosaur) After Jurassic Park stars "Sam Neill,
Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sir Richard
Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Wayne
Knight, Ariana Richards, & Joseph Mazzello". (The
genus is named after Lake Tian Chi.) The name was proposed by Steven
Speilberg, who donated money for Chinese dinosaur research. The genus
was originally named Jurassosaurus before it was formally
Trombicula fujigmo Philip & Fuller, 1950 (chigger) After
WWII slang--"Fuck you, Jack, I got my orders".
Verma ansp Böhlke, 1968 (now Apterichtus ansp)
(eel) Indicated to be an arbitrary combination of letters, but
actually the acronym for Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia,
where the author worked.
Waddlia (bacterium) after WADDL: Washington
Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
Abracadabrella birdsville Zabka, 1991 (jumping
Aloha Kirkaldy, 1904 (fulgorid bug) Etymology: "'Aloha',
the Hawaiian salutation (lit. 'love')."
Sayonara Jordan & Steele, 1906 (fish)
Arfia Van Valen, 1965 (a dog-like fossil
Cuttysarkus Estes, 1964 (fossil salamander) probably
after a brand of whiskey. Synonymized with Prodesmodon.
Cyclocephala rorschachoides Ratcliffe
(scarab) Presumably it has an ink-blot-like pattern on it.
Horridonia horrida (Permian brachiopod) It
has nothing more horrible than a set of spines.
Indicator indicator (honey-guide) This
African bird leads people and honey-badgers to honey nests.
Oedipina complex (salamander)
Drepanovelia millennium Andersen and Weir,
2001 (veliid water strider) The real "Millennium
bug". [Invert. Taxonomy 15: 217-258]
Goodrichthys (fossil shark)
Hallucigenia Conway Morris, 1977 (Cambrian
marine onychophoran) for "the bizarre and dream-like appearance of the
animal". The original interpretation was upside-down; what Conway
Morris thought were legs were armor spines on its back.
Proconsul Hopwood, 1933 (Miocene
hominoid) "before Consul". Consul was the name of a popular chimpanzee
in the Birmingham Zoo, England.
Shuvosaurus inexpectatus Chatterjee, 1993
(theropod dinosaur) so called because its features were more advanced
Xanthopan morgani praedicta (African sphinx
moth) In The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized by
Insects (1877), Charles Darwin described an orchid from Madagascar,
Angraecum sesquepedale, whose flowers have a spur almost 12
inches long, with all the nectar at the bottom. He hypothesized that,
for the plant to be fertilized, "In Madagascar there must be moths with
proboscides capable of extension to a length of between ten and eleven
inches! This belief of mine has been ridiculed by entomologists..."
Forty years later, this subspecies, with a 12-inch coiled tongue, was
discovered as predicted.
Simulium damnosum (black fly) Refers to the damnable
vector of the onchocerciasis (river blindness) parasite.
Damnxanthodium calvum (Greenm.) Strother
(composite) The genus name refers to the problem of distinguishing these
Ambrosia (ragweed) Named after the food of the gods,
this genus is a major cause of allergies.
Campanulotes defectus (feather louse), and
Columbicola extinctus (feather louse) Both these lice
were reported from the passenger pigeon and were thought to have gone
extinct with it, hence their names, but both are still living on other
Dinosauria Owen, 1841 Means "fearfully great lizard",
but many were small and inoffensive, and none were lizards.
Geosaurus Cuvier, 1824 (marine crocodile)
Means "earth lizard", but it was strictly aquatic.
Gopherus (desert tortoise) not a gopher.
(Asteraceae) An angiosperm, not
a gymnosperm. (photo)
Nasturtium (watercress) Not a nasturtium.
Neoleptoneta myopica (Tooth Cave spider) The
name implies near-sightedness, but the spider is blind.
Nephanes titan Newman, 1834 (beetle) This beetle is
Oviraptor Osborn, 1924 (theropod dinosaur) The name
means "egg thief" because the first fossil was found with what was
thought to be Protoceratops eggs, but the eggs turned out to be
its own; most likely, it was guarding its own nest. (Osborn did note
that the name could "entirely mislead us as to its feeding habits and
belie its character," but he went with the name anyway.)
Pinguinus (auk) Not a penguin. The name "penguin"
was originally applied to the great auk and later to the Antarctic
birds. It came to apply exclusively to the latter as the auks were
driven to extinction.
Platypus (a beetle) Not a playpus.
Puffinus puffinus (Manx shearwater) Not the
Raphus cuculatus (dodo) "Raphus" comes from
a vulgar term for "rump." The dodo's common name and former scientific
name (Didus ineptus L.) are also perjorative. However, study of
fossils show that wild dodos were sleeker and active; their modern image
came from overfed obese captive specimens.
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