I know that some people think that messing around with taxonomy and scientific nomenclature is dry and boring, but I thought I'd share some scientific names that belie that notion. Taxonomists do
have a sense of humor; sometimes they are downright silly (or worse). Of course, as sober scientists, they have to disguise the silliness with fancy Latin-sounding names, but don't let that fool you. You might need to try pronouncing a few of these names aloud before you get the joke, but they are all "legitimate" scientific epithets:
--I mentioned this one in a recent midge ID; it was named for the Grateful Dead.
--this one was also mentioned before on this site. Konchu's buddies, Webb and McCafferty, gave this name to a new species of heptageniid mayfly nymph found in Borneo (presumably on the "darkside" of some rock).
--I imagine Schmid was skipping down the lane when he named this one, otherwise I suspect he would have named it "blablablah."
--sounds like these might be the same fish that spent most of their time floating upside down in my aquarium when I was a kid. If so, they are a foul-smelling breed and about as entertaining as watching paint dry.
--this one sounds like it was found in a fishbowl on The Waltons
--a stupid goby, I presume. Maybe the discoverer asked what its name was, but it didn't answer....
--perhaps spicy food doesn't agree with this fish, or....
--there's nothing funny about this genus name for suckers, but I threw it in because Don Zahner, the original editor of Fly Fisherman
, once called someone "a male Catostomus
" in the pages of that magazine. To appreciate the insult, remember that some terms for fish gender are the same as for chickens or pheasants.
--I assume this is a big wasp.
--I assume this is an unusual wasp.
and Pison eu
--the first name would seem to suggest a pronunciation like "name yer pison, pardner," but the second name suggests a different pronunciation. I'm not sure which is correct.
and Heerz tooya
--apparently the wasp guys like to raise a glass or two.
--one of those damn deerflies...'nuff said!
--a horsefly that may have been the source of a rude awakening. If so, Philip showed admirable restraint in not smashing it into an unidentifiable blob of insect goo. That's "taking one for the team" in the name of science.
--the nominator, McAlpine, supposedly had a picture of this fly on his office door bearing the caption "Look at This!"
Moths and Butterflies
--yes, that's right, a "new species" of Cephise
--a new moth? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha, by golly!"
--this moth genus was named for Dyar. Presumably, the pun was unintentional.
--apparently moth people have their own way of celebrating when they make a new discovery.
and Agra phobia
--Erwin may have been getting tired of looking at beetles when he named these.
--Radcliffe was definitely getting tired of looking at scarab beetles.
--funny in the modern context, but I assume this was just a conventional name when Boisduval proposed it in 1835.
--the name given to a protozoan by Linne (Linneaus), which shows how long this scientific tomfoolery has been going on.
--a great name for molluscs that are smaller than those in the genus Bittium
--eggsanbakie? The name for an Oligo-Miocene rat kangaroo that had been sleeping for a very long time.
, and Tisentnops
--just to be clear, these spiders are no longer in the genus Nops
and Pinus flexilis
--OK, we all giggled when we heard the genus name for pine trees back in Biology class, but I don't recall the mention of these species. I wonder why?
--supposedly the name of an earwig, but I seem to remember something else with a name like this....what was it?....oh, yeah...nevermind.
--if you're a dog, this suggestion usually isn't necessary, but as the name for a Triassic therapsid, I'm not sure what to make of it.
, and Polychisme
--to appreciate this notorious group of names for Hemiptera, pronounce the "ch" like "k" and you'll wonder if Kirkaldy was a philanderer or just someone who had spent way too long in the company of insects.
--A recent name for a fossil mythicomyiid found in Dominican amber. Evenhuis obviously knows about Kirkaldy and may have similar issues.
--what else would you call an extinct wasp found in amber?
If you'd like to read more of these taxonomic gems (without my unsolicited commentary), Mark Issak keeps a great collection of them here: