www.CuriousTaxonomy.net
Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak       specimen@curioustaxonomy.net
-Home- -Rules- -Etymology- -Puns- -Wordplay- -Gene Names- -Misc.- -References- -Feedback-
Etymology: Names from Fictional Characters

Classical Writings

Crito Distand, 1916 (leafhopper) named after a dialog by Plato.
Electra Lamouroux 1816 (bryozoan)
Gargantua Jullien, 1888 (bryozoan)
Gargantuavis philoinis Buffetaut and Le Loeuff, 1998 (huge Cretaceous flightless bird) This French fossil was named for one of the giants in Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. "Philoinis" means "wine-loving", which describes the original Gargantua but probably not the bird.
Grendelius McGowan, 1976 (Jurassic ichthyosaur) named for Beowulf's nemesis. Now synonymized with Brachypterygius.
Agra othello Erwin, 2000 (carabid)
Iago Compagno & Springer, 1971 (shark)
Oberonia Lindl. (1830) (fairy orchid) The array of tiny flowers on a stalk connected to a cluster of leaves evoked an image of a tiny carriage with a team of horses, suggesting Oberon, king of the fairies, driving through the branches. The genus Titania Endl. 1833 is now included in Oberonia, and Oberonia titania (Endl.) Lindl. pairs the king and queen of the fairies.
Ophelia (annelid)
Peneothello (robin) probably so named because the bird is mostly black ("pene" means "almost").
Puck (anglerfish)
Oedipus rex (salamander)
Oedipodrilus oedipus Holt (worm)
Saguinus oedipus oedipus (cotton-top tamarin) According to a paper presented by A. J. Ginther and C. T. Snowdon at the 2004 American Society of Primatologists conference ("The Oedipal conflict in Saguinus oedipus"), these tamarins really do love their mothers (though the dams do not let them complete the process). Apparently, though, this behavior was not observed until after the species was named, perhaps for its big feet.
Ozymandias Jordan & Gilbert, 1919 (fossil fish)
Wukongopterus Wang et al., 2009 (Jurassic pterosaur) Named for Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, hero of the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West.

18th - 19th Century Writings

Agra eponine Erwin, 2000 (carabid) Named after the street urchin in Les Miserables "who, in the Broadway version of the story, personified tragic beauty. Such is the state of the tropical forests where these beetles live."
Akela Peckham and Peckham, 1896 (jumping spider) Named after a character in Kipling's The Jungle Book.
Bagheera kiplingi Peckham and Peckham, 1896 (Central American spider) Named for Rudyard Kipling and Bagheera, the black panther from Kipling's The Jungle Book. Ironically, it is the first known vegetarian spider.
Anchylorhynchus pinocchio De Madeiros & Nunez-Avellaneda, 2013 (weevil) because of its extremely long snout as compared with others of its genus. (The genus name translates as "crooked-snout".)
Walckenaeria pinocchio Kaston, 1945 (spider) Named for Carlo Lorenzini's prevaricating marionette in The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Balnibarbi Fortey (trilobite) Named for the abysmally inept technocracy in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
Viola lilliputana Ballard & Iltis, 2012 (violet) One of the smallest terrestrial dicots; named for the tiny Lilliputians in Swift's Gulliver's Travels. [ZooKeys 430: 1]
Dryadella lilliputiana Cogniaux (orchid)
Salticus lilliputanus (jumping spider)
Peruphorticus gulliveri Erwin & Zamorano (ground beetle) The beetle's large size relative to others of its genus reminded the authors of Gulliver's travels in Lilliput.
Borogovia Osmólska, 1987 (theropod dinosaur) from "borogove", a mimsy creature from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky".
Daggoo, Queequeg, and Tashtego Sime & Wahl, 2002 (ichneumonid wasps) named for the harpoonists in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. [Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 134: 1]
Desulforudis audaxviator Chivian et al. 2008 (sulfate-reducing bacterium) Found in water samples from 2.8 km underground in the Mponeng gold mine in South Africa; the only species known in its ecosystem. The name comes from a quotation from Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. The hero, Professor Lidenbrock, finds a secret Latin inscription that reads: "Descende, audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges" (Descend, bold traveller, and you will attain the center of the Earth).
Dracula Luer 1978 (orchid) The orchid is blackish-red and looks like a bat. The genus includes many species, including Dracula vampira, Dracula nosferatu, and Dracula diabola. The species D. fafnir is named for a Norse giant who turned into a dragon to guard a horde of treasure. (The genus name has also been used erroneously for the pigeon genus Ducula.)
Liparis draculoides (another orchid)
Desmodus draculae Morgan, Linares and Ray, 1988 (giant South American vampire bat, recently extinct).
Danionella dracula Britz (fish) a Burmese fish with "fangs" made of bone.
Draculo Snyder, 1911 (dragonet fish)
Hemignathus vorpalis James & Olsen 2003 (greater nukupu'u, an extinct Hawaiian finch) Named for the vorpal blade in Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky", due to its long upper bill.
Holorusia brobdingnagius (crane fly) Named for the Brobdingnags, a race of giants in Swift's Gulliver's Travels. According to Guinness, it is probably the world's largest crane fly, it has a wingspan of 4 inches, and its legs may spread almost 9 inches.
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.
Agra ichabod Erwin, 2002 (carabid) "Refers to the fact that the holotype is missing its head and the illusion is that of the frightened schoolteacher Ichabod Crane's phantom nemesis, the Headless Horseman, in 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'...."
Laputa Whitley, 1930 (fish) and, more appropriately,
Laputavis Dyke, 2001 (Middle Eocene fossil swift) named for the floating castle in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.
Messua Peckham and Peckham, 1896 (jumping spider) Named after a character in Kipling's The Jungle Book.
Millerocaulis tekelili Vera, 2012 (Cretaceous fern) "Tekeli-li" was a cry of the Tsalalians, an Antarctic race in Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. H. P. Lovecraft later make it an endlessly repated cry of the monstrous shoggoths, which lived in Antarctic caverns in At the Mountains of Madness. The fossil fern was discovered in Antarctica. [Alcheringa 36: 37]
Morlockia Garcia-Valdecasas, 1984 (cave-dwelling remipede crustacean) Named for the Morlocks, the subterranean subhumanoids in H.G. Well's The Time Machine.
Muscatheres Evenhuis, 1986 (bee fly) "There are only three Muscatheres known," referring to three specimens of the lone species, M. lurida (previously described in the genus Phthiria).
Nagaina Peckham and Peckham, 1896 (jumping spider) Named after a character in Kipling's "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi."
Paramphientomum yumyum Enderlein, 1907 (psocopteran) Probably named after the character Yum-yum in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado." This is not confirmed, but it is supported by the fact that the insect is native to Japan.
Pseudione quasimodo Boyko & Williams, 2004 (parasitic isopod (Crustacea: Isopoda: Bopyroidea) found under the carapace of hermit crabs) Named for Victor Hugo's bell ringer of Notre Dame, as the parasite has a distinct bulge in dorsal view. (Boyko originally wrote in the manuscript that he "had a hunch" it was a new species, but the un-amused editor insisted that be stricken from the text.)
Semiramis Becker, 1913 (bombyliid fly) A story by Voltaire about a Babylonian queen.
Sirenoscincus mobydick Miralles et al., 2012 (skink) "The specific epithet refers to Moby Dick, the famous albino sperm whale imagined by Herman Melville (1851), with whom the new species shares several uncommon characteristics, such as the lack of hindlimbs, the presence of flipper-like forelimbs, highly reduced eyes, and the complete absence of pigmentation." [Zoosystema 34: 701]
Stylaclista quasimodo Early (diapriid wasp)
Tetragnatha quasimodo (Hawaiian spider) Named for the kyphotic bellringer in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

20th - 21st Century Writings

Ampulex dementor Ohl, 2014 (cockroach wasp) Named after the Dementors of the Harry Potter books, which suck their prey's souls much like the wasp's venom neutralizes its victim's behavior.
Aname aragog Harvey et al., 2012 (trapdoor spider) Named after a giant spider from Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. [Zootaxa 3383: 15]
Calumma tarzan Gehring et al., 2010 (chameleon) So named partly because it was found in what was known locally as the Tarzan Forest in Madagascar, and partly in hopes that the name, like Tarzan himself, will promote conservation of the species and the forest. [Salamandra 46: 167]
Cetiocaridae (extinct anomalocarid-like arthropods) The book All Your Yesterdays by C. M. Kosemen compiles artwork showing speculative but plausible ideas about extinct animals. It included the "Ceticaris", a hypothetical animalocarid-like suspension-feeder, drawn by John Mezsaros. The Cetiocaridae is named after it.
Cthulhu James and Keeling, 2012 (parabasalid, a flagellated protist termite symbiont) Named for the tentacled demon from the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. The protist's flagellar bundle is reminiscent of the demon.
Nanocthulhu lovecrafti Buffington, 2012 (wasp) "Cthulhu's is described as having 'a pulpy, tentacled head,' and the clypeal fuscina [on the front of the wasp's head] described herein is reminiscent of Cthulhu's head"; "nano-" refers to the wasp's small size; and H.P. Lovecraft, fiction author, created Cthulhu. [Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 114: 5]
Pimoa cthulhu Hormiga, 1994 (spider) Named after H. P. Lovecraft's evil god.
Cthylla James and Keeling, 2012 (parabasalid, a flagellated protist termite symbiont) In H. P. Lovecraft's writing, Cthylla was the secret daughter of Cthulhu. The protist is a smaller and simpler relative of the protist genus Cthulhu. [PLOS One 8(3) (2013)]
Dracorex hogwartsia Bakker et al. 2006 (pachycephalosaur dinosaur) Named for Hogwarts School of Harry Potter fame. The genus means "dragon king." J. K. Rowling wrote, "I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs." The skull is on display at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
Eeyorius Paulin, 1986 (Australian fish) named for the donkey in A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books. Like Eeyore, it lives in damp, dark places.
Irritator challengeri Martill, Cruikshank, Frey, Small & Clarke, 1996 (small theropod dinosaur) "challengeri" refers to Professor Challenger, a character from Doyle's The Lost World. The generic name came from the fact that inept Brazilian fossil collectors broke the skull in extracting it and rebuilt it incorrectly: "From irritation, the feeling the authors felt (understated here) when discovering that the snout had been artificially elongated".
Ituglanis macunaima Datovo & Landim, 2005 (catfish) "From the modernist Brazilian masterpiece by Mário de Andrade -- 'Macunaíma: o herói sem nenhum caráter' -- meaning the hero without any character, in reference of the absence of any exclusive (taxonomic) character for the new species. Mário de Andrade's Macunaíma was based in folk Amazonian indian myth, and also presents infantile features, in allusion to the paedomorphic characters of the new species." [Neotrop. Ichthyol. 3: 461]
Laelius arryni, L. baratheoni, L. lannisteri, L. martelli, L. targaryeni, L. tullyi, and L. starki Azevedo & Barbosa, 2014 (bethylid wasps) "The specific epithets of all new species are derived from some families of the book A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones [by George R. R. Martin]". [Zoologica (Curitiba) 31(3)]
Ledermanniella maturiniana Beentje, 2005 (a minute Kenyan waterweed, Podostemaceae) Named after Patrick O'Brian's character Doctor Stephen Maturin, an avid naturalist and pathetic sailor who often managed to fall off boats. Like him, this plant is often immersed.
Loraxichthys Salcedo, 2013 (catfish) Named for Lorax, the Dr. Seuss character who advocates for the environment; "Loraxichthys refers to the fish that speaks for other fishes." [Zootaxa 3640: 565]
Macrocarpaea apparata Grant & Struwe, 2003 (gentian) Named after the verb "to apparate" made popular in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. As a wizard apparating out of nowhere, this 12-foot high plant appeared to botanists on a misty hillside in southern Ecuador. (More info here) [Harvard Papers in Botany 8: 61]
Oileus gasparilomi Cano & Schuster, 2012 (bess beetle) "Named after Gaspar Ilóm, a native hero of the novel 'Men of Maize' by [literature Nobel prize-winner] Miguel Ángel Asturias. The collection locality is called 'mountains of Ilóm'." [Zookeys 194: 81]
Ozraptor subotaii Long & Molnar, 1998 (theropod dinosaur) Named after Subotai, a swift-running thief from Conan the Barbarian, whose behavior this dinosaur is supposed to have emulated. ("Oz" in the genus name comes from a colloquial abbreviation of Australia.)
Savignia naniplopi Bosselaers and Henderickx 2002 (linyphiid spider) "The species is named after the gnome (Latin 'nanus') Plop, a popular character from children's stories whose cap is similar in shape to the male cephalic snout of the present species." [Zootaxa 109:3]
Theognete maturini Anderson, 2010 (weevil) Named for Stephen Maturin of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of British Royal Naval novels.
Tinkerbella nana Huber & Noyes 2013 (fairyfly) Named for characters from J. M. Barrie's "Peter Pan": the fairy Tinkerbell, and Nana, the nurse.
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, which he named. Other lycaenid names derive from Nabokov stories, too, including:
Madeleinea nodo, M. odon Bálint & Johnson, 1994 (lycaenid butterflies) Named after half-brothers in Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, reflecting their close relatedness. Madeleinea cobaltana Bálint & Lamas, 1994 is named for Kobalt, a mountain resort in 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.
Humbert humberti Sime & Wahl, 2002 (ichneumonid wasp) Named for Nabokov's Lolita pederast Humbert Humbert. [Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 134: 1]
Paralycaeides hazelea Bálint & Johnson, 1995 and P. shade Bálint, 1993 (lycaenids) After characters in Nabokov's Pale Fire.
Itylos pnin Bálint, 1993 for Professor Pnin.
Nabokovia ada Bálint & Lamas, 1994, for the title character, and Madeleinea ardisensis Bálint & Lamas, 1996 named after Ardis Hall, a place in Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle.
Thestral Faúndex & Rider, 2014 (pentatomid bug) Named for the thestrals, skeletal winged horses, from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The ivory carinae and calluses on the bug's back resemble the skeletal body. Also, thestrals cannot be seen by everyone, and few specimens of this insect have been found, even in well-sampled locations. [Zootaxa 3884: 395]

Aleiodes adorabelleae, A. anguaae, A. atuin, A. binkyi, A. deathi, A. lipwigi, A. magratae, A. morti, A. ponderi, A. pteppicymoni, A. ridcullyi, A. rincewindi, A. stibbonsi, A. tmaliaae, A. vetinarii Butcher et al. 2012 (braconid wasps) - all names from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. [Zootaxa 3457]
Czekanowskia anguae Watson et al., 2001 (fossil gymnosperm) for Angua, she-werewolf and member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. "In tribute to the author Terry Pratchett OBE, all the new fossil plant species diagnosed and described in this paper are named for fictional characters who appear in his series of Discworld novels." [Bull. Nat. Hist. Mus. Lond. (Geol.) 57: 29-82.] (This refers also to the eight entries which follow.)
Ginkgoites weatherwaxiae Watson et al., 2001 (fossil ginkgo) for Granny Weatherwax, a witch.
Ginkgoites nannyoggiae Watson et al., 2001 (fossil ginkgo) for Nanny Ogg, matriarch and witch.
Ginkgoites garlickianus Watson et al., 2001 (fossil ginkgo) for Magrat Garlick, witch and Queen of Lancre.
Phoenicopsis rincewindii Watson et al., 2001 (fossil gymnosperm) for Rincewind, an ineffective wizard of Unseen University.
Pseudotorellia vimesiana Watson et al., 2001 (fossil conifer) after Sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.
Sciadopityoides greeboana Watson et al., 2001 (fossil gymnosperm) After Greepo, Nanny Ogg's cat.
Sulcatocladus dibbleri Watson et al., 2001 (fossil conifer) for C.M.O.T. Dibbler, street vendor in Ankh-Morpork.
Torreyites detriti Watson et al., 2001 (fossil conifer) for Detritus, troll and member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

Film Characters and Creatures

Adelopsis dumbo Gnaspini & Peck 2001 (leiodid beetle) Named for the big-eared cartoon elephant, because the beetle's aedeagus, which resembles an elephant proboscis, has at its tip a very large lateral projection resembling an ear.
Agra lilu Erwin, 2000 (ground beetle) Named for a character in the film "The Fifth Element".
Aptostichus sarlacc Bond 2012 (trapdoor spider) The sarlacc is a creature from "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" which lives at the base of a sand pit, consuming people and animals that fall (or are thrown) in.
Bambiraptor Burnham, Derstler, Currie, Bakker, Zhou & Ostrom, 2000 (theropod dinosaur) after Disney's Bambi, because of its small size. [U. Kansas Paleo contributions 13] (See also a dinosaur mailing list thread which includes much discussion of the appropriateness of the name.)
Celmus michaelmus Adrain & Fortey, 1997 (trilobite) Its abdominal apex looks like a Mouseketeer hat.
Ceraeochrysa michaelmuris Adams & Penny (lacewing) Its abdominal apex looks like a Mouseketeer hat.
Chloridops regiskongi James & Olson, 1991 (extinct Hawaiian finch) Described by a local journalist as "a real King Kong finch", thus the name.
Cystomastacoides kiddo Quicke & Butcher, 2013 (braconid wasp) Named after the assassin character Beatrix Kiddo in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films. [J. Hymenop. Res. 31: 65]
Darthvaderum Hunt, 1996 (oribatid mite) "Etymology: When I saw the SEM [scanning electron micrograph] of the gnathosoma I immediately thought of Darth Vader, evil antihero of Star Wars." [Records of the Australian Museum 48: 303-324]
Agathidium vaderi Miller and Wheeler, 2004 (slime mold beetle) Its head resembles Darth Vader's helmet.
Polemistus vaderi Menke, 1983 (wasp)
Diplacodon gigan Mihlbachler, 2011 (brontothere) From the etymology: "'Gigan' is a fictional giant horned monster first appearing in the 1972 Japanese film 'Godzilla versus Gigan' and other Godzilla films thereafter." [J. Vert. Paleo. 31: 202]
Eoperipatus totoro Oliveira et al., 2013 (velvet worm) "the species is named after the main character of the cartoon movie 'My Neighbour Totoro' by Hayao Miyazaki (1988, studio Ghibli), who uses a many-legged animal as a vehicle..." [Zoologischer Anzeiger 252: 495]
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.
Godzilliognomus Yager, 1989 (godzilliid) The smallest remipede. [Bull. of Marine Sci. 44(3):1195]
Gojirasaurus Carpenter, 1997 (theropod dinosaur) "Gojira" is the Japanese name for Godzilla (but the dinosaur was found in New Mexico).
Pleomothra Yager, 1989 (godzilliid) Named after Mothra. [Bull. of Marine Sci. 44(3):1195]
Gamerabaena Lyson and Joyce, 2010 (late Cretaceous turtle) Named for the Gamera, the giant Japanese film monster, and the family Baenidae of which it is a member.
Sinemys gamera Brinkman & Peng, 1993 (Japanese fossil turtle) Named after the giant Japanese fire-breathing flying turtle. The fossil has wing-like projections from its shell.
Han solo Turvey 2005 (agnostid trilobite) Officially, the genus is named after the Han Chinese (the fossil is from northern Hunan Province, China), and the species is so named because it appears to represent the last surviving member of the Diplagnostidae. Really, Turvey's friends dared him to name a species after a Star Wars character, as most of the characters' names sound like scientific names. [Trans. Royal Soc. Edinburgh: Earth Sci. 95: 527-542]
Hortipes terminator Bosselaers & Jacque (spider) The male's palps resemble a "futuristic gun."
Ikrandraco avatar Wang et al., 2014 (Cretaceous pterosaur) Named for the Ikran, a flying creature from the movie Avatar which shows a well-developed dentary crest similar to the pterosaur's (+ draco, "dragon"). [Scientific Reports 4, no. 6329]
Polemistus chewbacca Menke, 1983 (wasp)
Predatoroonops Brescovit et al., 2012 (goblin spider) The spiders' chelicerae resemble the face of the Predator from the 1987 film of that name, hence the genus name. The 17 species described within the genus are all named after characters, actors, locations, and other names from the movie.
Shrekin Britto and Navia, 2007 (eriophyid mite) Named for the film cartoon character Shrek "because of the resemblance of the long, laterodorsal scapular tubercules to the long stalked ears of this character, plus -in, Latin diminutive suffix." [Internat. J. Acarol. 33:347-351]
Tetramorium jedi Hita Garcia & Fisher, 2012 (ant) Named for the Jedi of "Star Wars" fame. [Zootaxa 3592: 51]
Yoda Priede et al., 2012 (acorn worm) Named for Yoda of Star Wars fame because large lips at the worm's head resemble Yoda's ears. [Invert. Biol. 131: 244.]
Albunione yoda Markham & Boyko, 2003 (parasitic isopod (Crustacea: Isopoda: Bopyroidea)) This species, found under the carapace of sand crabs, also has large projectiog lateral flaps on the sides of its head that look like Yoda's ears.
Polemistus yoda Vincent, 1983 (wasp)

Television

Agra dax Erwin, 2000 (ground beetle) Named for the character Jadzia Dax from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and dedicated to the actress, Terry Farrell.
Agra smurf Erwin, 2000 (ground beetle) The name was inspired by the beetle's head shape.
Annuntidiogenes worfi Fraaije et al., 2009 (Cretaceous hermit crab) The ornament of this crab recalls the forehead of Star Trek's Mr. Worf. [Bol. Soc. Geol. Mex. 61: 13]
Conus tribblei Walls, 1977 (marine snail) Named after a pet cat named "Tribbles", which was named after the furry creatures from Star Trek. [The Pariah 1: 1-3.]
Geragnostus waldorfstatleri Turvey 2005 (trilobite) The pygidium (tail) looks just like the heads of Waldorf and Statler of "The Muppet Show." [Trans. Royal Soc. Edinburgh: Earth Sci. 95: 527-542]
Ladella spocki Viegas, Benaim & Absãlo, 2014 (mussel) for Spock of Star Trek fame. "The overall shape of [the mussel's] valves resembles the shape of the pointed ear of the Vulcans ..." [Am. Malacological Bull. 32: 188-189.]
Mestoronema Wagner 1999 (fossil snail) Named after the evil snail king on a Dr. Who episode. [Smithsonian Contrib. to Paleobiology 88:1-154] (Turnabout is fair play; the writers for Dr. Who often took animal names for their monsters -- crinoids, mandrills, Mara, etc.)
Spongiforma squarepantsii Desjardin, Peay & T.D. Bruns, 2011 (mushroom) This orange mushroom from Borneo was so unusual in its spongelike form, the researchers named it after Spongebob Squarepants, the world's most famous sponge. Additionally, its spore-producing area, under high magnification, resembles the seafloor where Spongebob lives.

Folklore

Adetomyrma goblin Yoshimura & Fisher, 2012 (ant) Adults of this blind subterranean ant drink the hemolymph of their own larvae. Only the larvae can eat solid food.
Agra sasquatch Erwin, 1982 (carabid) with big feet.
Agra yeti Erwin, 1982 (carabid) sister species of A. sasquatch.
Mesocentrus sasquatch Butcher et al. 2014 (braconid wasp) from Papua New Guinea. It was not explained why that name was chosen. [Zootaxa 3860: 449]
Camelotia Galton, 1985 (Triassic prosauropod) from England; named for Camelot.
Campsicnemius uncleremus Evenhuis, 2000 (dolichopodid fly)
Chupacabrachelys complexus Lehman & Wick, 2010 (Cretaceous turtle) The chupacabra (Spanish for "goat sucker") is a creature of contemporary folk legend said to feed on livestock in the Texas-Mexico border area. The skull of Chupacabrachelys, to the authors, resembles a mangy coyote believed to be responsible for chupacabra sightings. The complexus epithet refers to "The Complex" tour of the Blue Man Group, which entertained the authors during their work.
Cibotium barometz (L.) J.Sm. (woolly fern) The barometz, or Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, was an imagined plant whose fruit grew into sheep which, while connected to the plant by an umbilical cord, grazed the area around it. Rhizomes growing up from a woolly common base of the actual fern can form the shape of an inverted lamb.
Cindarella Chen et al., 1996 (Cambrian arthropod) Named "for its phonetic similarity to Xandarella" (a similar Cambrian fossil), but likely influenced by the name of the folkloric woman. [Ramsköld et al. 1997, Trans. Royal Soc. Edinburgh Earth Sci. 88: 25.] Xandarella itself is the diminutive of Greek Xandaros, "a fabulous sea-monster" [Hou et al., Zool. Script. 20: 402].
Cinderella Steyskal, 1949 (heleomyzid fly)
Crocidura cinderella (Cinderella shrew) from Africa.
Teleocichla cinderella Kullander 1988 (cichlid) "Named with reference to the coloration, gray and black, producing an ashy appearance" [Copeia, 196-230].
Thylamys cinderella (Cinderella fat-tailed opossum) from NW Argentina.
Dracaena draco (dragon tree)
Dracaena and Draco (lizards)
Dracunculus (round worm) Named after "draco", dragon. 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.
Kryptodrakon Andres, Clark & Xu, 2014 (Jurassic pterosaur) Translation: "Hidden dragon"; so named because it was found in the area where "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was filmed.
Gargoyleosaurus Carpenter, Miles, & Cloward, 1998 (ankylosaurid dinosaur)
Goniacodon hiawathae Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal) for Hiawatha, legendary founder of the Iriquois League.
Kikimora palustris Eskov, 1988 (spider) Kikimora is a dangerous female spirit in Slavic mythology who lives in marshes. "Palustris" means "of a marsh." [Zoologicheskyj Zhurnal 67: 678 (in Russian)]
Leprechaunus (treehopper)
Merlinia (trilobite) Named for King Arthur's wizard
Excalibosaurus McGowan, 1986 (Jurassic ichthyosaur) Named after King Arthur's sword. Excalibosaurus has a swordlike upper jaw, and it was found in Britain's west country, the place of the emergence of Excalibur.
Lemur L., 1758 (lemur) From Latin leumures, zombie-like ghosts which the Romans supposed ultimately would haunt the world at night. The name was first applied to the slender lorises of India, inspired by their slow movement and nocturnal habits. Its meaning later narrowed to just the Malagasy primates.
Monstera Adans. (tropical vine) A cultivated species with edible fruit has the ironic name Monstera deliciosa.
Mucha tzokotucha Ozerov, 1992 (fly: Sepsidae) Named for a fly character in a famous Russian folktale. "Mucha" means "fly", and "tzokotucha" is the character's nickname for himself; apparently it has no further meaning.
Paroxyna babayaga Hering, 1938 (tephritid fruit fly) Named for the ugly Russian folklore monster Babayaga.
Polypterus mokelembembe Schafer and Schliewen 2006 (freshwater fish called bichir or reedfish) Named for the cryptozoological Congolese dinosaur-like creature Mokele-mbembe (featured, e.g., in the Disney movie "Baby"). The bichirs have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and this particular species comes from the Congo. [Zootaxa 1129: 25-36]
Samrukia Naish et al. 2011 (Cretaceous bird) Named for the Samruk, a magical bird of Kazakh folklore.
Sanctacaris Briggs & Collins, 1988 (fossil primitive chelicerate) Literally "Santa claws" [see Gould, Wonderful Life, p. 186-187]
Selenochlamys ysbryda Rowson & Symondson, 2008 (ghost slug from Wales). The species name is Latinised from the Welsh ysbryd (meaning ghost or spirit), referring to the fact that it is rarely seen, is white in color, and is nocturnal.
Smok wawelski Niedzwiedzki, Sulej and Dzik, 2011 (Triassic archosaur) Named for Smok wawelski (the dragon of Wawel Hill), a famous dragon in Polish folklore.
Tarascosaurus salluvicus Le Loeuff & Buffetaut, 1991 (Cretaceous theropod) Named for the Tarasque, a medieval legendary dragon from Provence, France. The Salluvii were an ancient Gallic tribe in the area near Marseilles.
Tetramorium elf Hita Garcia & Fisher, 2012 (ant)
Vampyrodes (South American bat), Vampyressa (South American bat), Vampyrum (false vampire bat) The last is also misnamed, for it does not feed on blood.
Pteropus vampyrus (giant Malaysian fruit bat)
Rhacophorus vampyrus (frog)

J. R. R. Tolkien

(See also "Named after Writers")
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.
Balinia Hedqvist, 1978 (chalcidoid wasp) Named after Balin, a dwarf.
Balrogia Hedqvist, 1977 (pteromalid wasp)
Anthracosuchus balrogus Hastings et al. 2014 (Paleocene crocodyliform) Found in a coal mine (Anthracosuchus means "coal crocodile"), this giant croc was named after the Balrog, another fearsome being which lived in a mine.
Beorn Cooper, 1964 (fossil tartigrade) Named after the man/bear character Beorn from The Hobbit.
Beornia Hedqvist, 1975 (wasp)
Bofuria Hedqvist, 1978 (pteromalid wasp) Named after Bofur, a dwarf from The Hobbit.
Bomburia Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal) for Bombur.
Borophagus orc Webb, 1969 (Pliocene canid) (Formerly in genus Osteoborus)
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
Durinia Hedqvist, 1978 (chalcidoid wasp) Named after Durin, a dwarf.
Deltatherium durini Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal) Several notable Dwarves were named Durin.
Dvalinia Hedqvist, 1977 (pteromalid wasp) Named after Dwalin, a dwarf from The Hobbit, or after Dvalinn, a dwarf from Norse mythology.
Earendil Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal, synonym of Mimatuta Van Valen, 1978) for Eärendil, father of Elrond.
Elachista amrodella, E. aredhella, E. caranthirella, E. curufinella, E. daeronella, E. diorella, E. finarfinella, E. gildorella, E. indisella, E. maglorella, E. miriella, E. turgonella (Kaila 1999) (moths) Named after elves from Tolkien, respectively: Amrod (Amras' twin), Aredhel (The White Lady of Gondolin), Caranthir, Curufin, Daeron (Chief loremaster of Doriath), Dior (King of Doriath), Finarfin (Noldor King in Aman), Gildor Inglorion (High-Elf of Eriador & Imladris), Indis, Maglor, Miriel, Turgon (Lord of Nevrast, then Gondolin). Kaila mentions that Elves "one after other sailed over the water to the West, and were later difficult to see with human eyes," alluding to the studied moths, which are very inconspicuous and have spread to Nearctic areas. [Acta Zool. Fennica 211]
Entia Hedqvist, 1974 (wasp) Named after the Ents. But it is a junior synonym of Boucekastichus, hence the latter is the accepted name.
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.
Frodospira Wagner 1999 (Silurian gastropod) A small genus named after a certain hobbit. [Am. Malacological Bull. 15:1-31]
Macrostyphlus frodo Morrone, 1994 (Andean weevil)
Gildoria Hedqvist, 1974 (wasp) Named after Gildor Inglorion, an elf.
Gimlia Hedqvist, 1978 (chalcidoid wasp) Named after Gimli, a dwarf.
Gollum Compagno, 1973 (catshark)
Gollumiella Hedqvist, 1978 (chalcidoid wasp)
Gollumjapyx smeagol (dipluran hexapod)
Galaxias gollumoides (fresh-water fish) Named after Gollum because it has large eyes and was found in a swamp.
Ingerophrynus gollum Grismer 2007 (Mayasian toad) So named for its likeness to the fictional amphibious character. [J. Herp. 41: 225]
Gwaihiria Nauman (diapriid wasp) Named for Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles.
Khamul Gates, 2008 (eurytomid wasp) Named after Khaml, the Shadow of the East, the only Nazgul specifically named by J. R. R. Tolkein. [Zootaxa 1898: 25]
Khamul gothmogi Gates, 2008 (eurytomid wasp) Named after Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs.
Legolasia Hedqvist, 1974 (wasp) Named after the elf Legolas.
Litaletes ondolinde Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal) for Ondolindë, an Elven city.
Macrostyphlus gandalf Morrone, 1994 (Andean weevil) [This and M. frodo are from American Museum Novitates 3104: 1-63.]
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.
Nazgulia Hedqvist, 1973 (chalcidoid wasp) Named after the Nazgul.
Tetramorium nazgul and T. smaug Hita Garcia & Fisher, 2012 (ants)
Niphredil radagasti Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal, now in genus Paleotomus) Niphredil is a small Middle Earth flower. Radagast the Brown was a wizard.
Oinia Hedqvist, 1978 (chalcidoid wasp) Named after Óin, a dwarf.
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.
Sauroniops Cau et al., 2012 (Cretaceous theropod dinosaur) The name refers to the "Eye of Sauron"; the dinosaur is known only from a single bone above the eye socket.
Macropsis sauroni Hamilton, 1972 (leafhopper)
Shireplitis Fernandez-Triana & Ward, 2013 (braconid wasp) Named after the Shire (and the related genus Paroplitis); endemic to New Zealand. Species within the genus are: S. bilboi, S. frodoi, S. meriadoci, S. peregrini, S. samwisei, and S. tolkieni.
Smaug Stanley et al., 2011 (cordylid lizard) Smaug is the name of the dragon in The Hobbit. "According to Tolkien the name is derived from the Old German verb smeugen -- to squeeze through a hole. Like the type species, Smaug lived underground and was heavily armored. Appropriately Tolkien was born in the Free State province, South Africa, the core area of distribution of the type species." [Mol. Phylo. Evo. 58: 53]
Smeagol Climo, 1980 (gastropod, family Smeagolidae) Another name for Gollum.
Smeagolia Hedqvist, 1973 (pteromalid wasp)
Syconycteris hobbit Ziegler, 1982 (moss-forest blossom bat) "The specific name is an appositive noun, alluding to certain analogies between the newly described species and another seldom-seen forest form, described by Tolkien (1937), one of whose chief distinguishing characteristics was also a thickly haired pes."
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.
Yavanna Vera, 2013 (Cretaceous tree fern) In Tolkien's Silmarillion, Yavanna is a godlike Ainur who created the plants and animals of Middle Earth.

Comics

Batman Whitley, 1956 (Australian fish) Refers to a similarity between this fish's dorsal fin and the "bats" with which servicemen used to signal approaching aircraft on a carrier, rather than the famous Dark Knight of the graphic novels. Batman has now been replaced with the older Cryptocentrus.
Otocinclus batmani Lehmann, 2006 (catfish) is named after the caped crusader, because of a bat-shaped mark on its tail. [Neotropical Ichthyology 4: 379]
Campsicnemus popeye Evenhuis, 2013 (fly) So named because its enlarged tibia resemble the bulging forearms of the cartoon character Popeye.
Eubetia boop Brown (tortricid moth)
Hypocaccus kidpaddlei Gomy 2007 (histerid beetle) Named for Kid Paddle, a Franco-Belgian comic, because the beetle looks like a "blork", a moster from the Kid Paddle videogame universe. [Nouvelle Revue d'Entomologie (N.S.), 24(2): 125]
Lepidopa luciae Boyko, 2002 (sand crab (Crustacea: Anomura: Albuneidae)) Boyko originally thought to name it for cartoonist Charles Schulz ("Peanuts") but Schulz's wife had the bright suggestion to name it for Lucy van Pelt as her character was known for being crabby. The monograph in which it is described includes an appropriate "Peanuts" strip.
Ninjemys Gaffney, 1992 (fossil turtle) Etymology: "Ninja, in allusion to that totally rad, fearsome foursome epitomizing shelled success; emys, turtle."
Scelio dupondi and Scelio janseni Yoder, 2014 (parasitic wasps) Named for the Thomson and Thompson twin detectives in Tintin comics (Dupond and Dupont in French, Jansen and Janssen in Dutch). The two were always being confused with one another.

Other

Bidenichthys beeblebroxi Paulin, 1995 (triple-fin blenny) with a false head pattern.
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.
Cortana Salvador & Simone, 2013 (Paleocene land gastropod) Named after the character Cortana from the HALO video-game series, alluding to markings on the shell surface. [Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia 53: 16.]
Fiordichthys slartibartfasti Paulin, 1995 (brotulid, a deep-sea fish) Named for Hitchhiker's Guide character Slartibartfast, who is noted for designing fjords.
Halystina umberlee Salvador, Cavallari & Simone, 2014 (gastropod) Named after a deep sea goddess from the Faerûnian pantheon in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. [Zootaxa 3878: 536.]
Medusaceratops lokii Ryan, Russell & Hartman, 2010 (Cretaceous ceratopsan) Named after the Medusa specifically from Ray Harryhausen's "Clash of the Titans", for the "snake-like, rocky appendages coming out the back of its skull"; and after the Loki supervillian from Marvel comics, who was drawn with a helmet with two giant curved horns.
See also Mexicope sushara in Interesting Translations.

<< -Home- -Rules- -Etymology- -Puns- -Wordplay- -Gene Names- -Misc.- -References- -Feedback- >>

Last modified: .

© 2002-2014 Mark Isaak. All rights reserved.