Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature:

Mark Isaak
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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)

Interesting Translations

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 original misinterpretation.
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).
Megapnosaurus (theropod dinosaur) Translates as "big dead lizard." (The original name for this genus, Syntarsus, was 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 originally.)
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".

Named After People

Sports Figures

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 (fossil snake)
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 Larson
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 London.
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 (thrips)
Legionella shakespearei Verma et al., 1992 (bacterium)
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 wasp)
Gnathia beethoveni Paul & Menzies, 1971 (isopod)
Bishopina mozarti Bonaduce, Masoli & Pugliese, 1978 (ostracod)
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 the Ramones.
Bushiella (Jugaria) beatlesi Rzhavsky, 1993 (Annelida, spirorbid)
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 Ringo Starr.
Struszia mccartneyi Edgecombe & Chatterton, 1993 (trilobite) for Paul McCartney.
Elvisaurus Holmes, 1993 [nomen nudum] (dinosaur) so called for it's 'pompadour-like' crest. Now Cryolophosaurus.
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 Grateful Dead.
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.)
Aegrotocatellus jaggeri (trilobite) for Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger. See also the genus etymology.
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 rain forest.
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, also says, "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 Zappa's mustache.
Phialella zappai Boero, 1987 (jellyfish) 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. 21: 465]
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 documentary.
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 support)
Citrobacter freudi (coliform bacterium)
Carukia barnesi (jellyfish) Notable because the research that earned Dr. Jack Barnes the honorific also earned him a Darwin Award honorable mention.
Cyclocephala freudi Endrödi, 1963 (scarab)
Lepithrix freudi Schein, 1959 (scarab)
Hippocratea (tropical vine) and its family Hippocrateaceae, named after Hippocrates.
Leonardo davincii Bleszynski, 1965 (pyralid moth)
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) from Tibet.
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 33: 438]
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 George.


Bobbichthys (fossil fish)
Bobkabata kabatabobbus (parasitic copepod) Named after Bob Kabata.
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 brother.
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 from Mythology

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 head.
Hades Westwood, 1851 (riodinid butterfly)
Athene hades (African lycaenid butterfly)
Harpymimus Barsbold & Perle, 1984 (theropod dinosaur)
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) (fritillaries)
Clossiana thore (Hübner, 1803) (fritillary)
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 the Gods."

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: 1-15.]
Paraxerus lucifer (rodent)
Pudu mephistopheles (Northern Pudu deer)
Bubalus mephistopheles (Hopwood, 1925) (extinct buffalo)
Daimonelix ("Devil's corkscrew", nine-foot spiral tubes, trace fossil burrows of the Miocene beaver Paleocastor)
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.
Brahmaea (moth)
Garudimimus Barsbold, 1981 (theropod dinosaur) "Garuda mimic"; Garuda is the Hindu prince of birds.
Kali Lloyd, 1909 (deepsea swallower fish)
Ramapithecus (Miocene ape) from Pakistan; named after Rama.
Sivapithecus (Miocene ape) from India; named after Siva.
Sivatherium (Pleistocene giraffid) from India.

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.

Central America

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".

Names from Other Fictional Characters

Classical Writings

Grendelius (Jurassic ichthyosaur) named for Beowulf's nemesis.
Iago Compagno & Springer, 1971 (shark)
Puck (anglerfish)
Oedipus rex (salamander)
Oedipodrilus oedipus Holt (worm)
Saguinus oedipus oedipus (cotton-top tamarin)
Ozymandias Jordan & Gilbert, 1919 (fossil fish)

18th - 19th Century Writings

Borogovia Osmólska, 1987 (theropod dinosaur) from "borogove", a mimsy creature from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky".
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 relatedness.
Paralycaeides hazelea Bálint & Johnson, 1995 and 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 Lolita.
Pseudolucia hazeorum Bálint and Johnson, 1993 (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 Pseudolucia. Other lycaenid names derive from Nabokov stories, too.

Film Characters and Creatures

Bambiraptor Burnham, Durstler, Currie, Bakker, Zhou & Ostrom, 2002 (theropod dinosaur) after Disney's Bambi, because of its small size. (See also a dinosaur mailing list 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 feet.
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 League.
Merlinia (trilobite) Named for King Arthur's wizard
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, p. 186-187]

J. R. R. Tolkien

Aletodon mellon (Van Valen, 1978) (paleocene mammal) "mellon," Elvish for "friend," was the password into Moria.
Ancalagon Conway Morris, 1977 (cambrian priapulid) From a dragon from Tolkien.
Ankalagon Van Valen, 1980 (paleocene mesonychid mammal) Renamed from Ancalagon because it was preoccupied.
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 plant.
Bomburia Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal) for Bombur.
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 Elrond.
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' forest.
Gollum (shark)
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 stone.
Protungulatum gorgun Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal) "gorgûn" is a term for Orcs.
Smeagolia Hedqvist, 1973 (pteromalid wasp) Another name for Gollum.
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 Silmarillion.
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 Trek.

Named After Places

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), and
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, Montana.
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 named for).
Arizona (snake)
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)

Named After Things

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 beer.


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 restricted way."


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 A. titanum
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 mating animals.
Phallus impudicus (stinkhorn fungus, family Phallaceae) There is also Phallus daemonicum.
Priapulus (priapulid) Means "little penis". You need only look at one to see why.
Venus mercienaria (clam) Means "Venus selling favors".


Afipia (bacterium) after AFIP: Armed Force Institute of Pathology.
Afropolonia tgifi Goff, 1983 (chigger) from "Thank God it's Friday"
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 science.
Cedecea (bacterium) after CDC: Centers for Disease Control.
Csiro Medvedev & Lawrence, 1984 (tenebrionid) after Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia.
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: 624]
Natalichthys ori Winterbottom, 1980 (fish) For the Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.
Natalichthys sam Winterbottom, 1980 (fish) Named for S.A.M., the South African Museum, where the specimen was found.
Physalaemus enesefae Heatwole, Solano & Heatwole, 1965 (leptodactylid frog) Named after NSF (National Science Foundation).
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 numbers. 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 described.
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 spider)
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 hyaenodont)
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 than expected.
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 daisy look-alikes.


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 pigeons.
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.
Gymnosperma (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 0.4mm long.
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 puffin.
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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