Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak       specimen@curioustaxonomy.net
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Etymology: Named after Things

Achillesaurus Martinelli and Vera, 2007 (theropod dinosaur from Argentina) named for the Achilles' heel, because several of the animal's diagnostic features are found in its heel.
Aiteng (sea slug) Found in the Gulf of Thailand, this slug is named after Ai Theng, a puppet in many wayang, or Thai shadow plays.
Aleiodes tzantza Shimbori & Shaw, 2014 (parasitic wasp) "Tzantza" is the Shuar ritual of shrinking and mummifying heads, similar to what the parasites do to their hosts. [ZooKeys 405: 1]
Bathymodiolus boomerang Cosel & Olu, 1998 (mussel) The name, no doubt, was inspired by its shape.
Betelgeuse Shaw, 1988 (braconid wasp) Named after the star in the constellation Orion, because Orion has a sword, and the female wasp has a conspicuous sword-like ovipositor. [Psyche 95: 289]
Boreaphilus komsomolkae Shavrin et al, 2000 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) Komsomolka is diminutive for Komsomolskaya Pravda, a famous Russian newspaper. It also qualifies as an acronym, as Komsomol is an abbreviation of a tripartite term meaning "Communist Union of Youth"
Ceratoperidinium yeye Margalef, 1969 (dinoflagellate) "Yeye" is the name of a popular 1960s dance in Spain. This microalga has two expansions suggesting the legs of a girl dancing.
Chunia Woodburne and Clemens, 1986 (Australian Oligocene marsupial) Named after the Chun style of glazed pottery of the Sung Dynasty of China which, like the teeth of Chunia, exhibits numerous fine lines.
Cyclocephala rorschachoides Ratcliffe (scarab) Presumably it has an ink-blot-like pattern on it.
Cypraea isabella Linnaeus 1758 (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.
Denebola Barnes, 1984 (Miocene whale) Named for a star in the constellation Cygnus. [PaleoBios 42: 13]
Diplocriterion yoyo (trace fossil) It loops up and down.
Galaxias (freshwater fish) The type species, Galaxias argenteus was so named for the white spotting on its body like stars in a galaxy.
Golfingia Lankaster, 1885 (Sipunculid) named "in honor of golf". Reportedly, it was discovered while two professors were golfing at St. Andrews. A ball was sliced and landed on a beach next to the unusual animal.
Gordius (horsehair worm) Named after the famously complex Gordian knot. These worms often twist themselves into knots.
Hallucinochrysa diogenesi Pérez-de la Fuente et al., 2012 (fossil lacewing) Named after the Diogenes syndrome, which includes hoarding of garbage, because the fossil larva was found carrying detritus as camouflage, as many modern lacewing species do. (The syndrome was misnamed after the ancient Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes, who reputedly lived in extreme austerity and did not hoarde.)
Hylaeus tetris Dathe, 2000 (bee) Named for four marks on its scutellum, with reference to the computer game.
Legionella Brenner et al., 1979 (bacteria) This bacterium was first identified when an American Legion convention fell victim to it in Philadelphia in 1976.
Ludodactylus Frey, Martill, and Buchy 2003 (pterosaur) The name means "play pterosaur", in reference to toy models of Pteranodon which so often were inaccurately made with a beak of long, sharp teeth. Ludodactylus looks like Pteranodon but really has such teeth.
Mojoceratops Longrich 2010 (ceratopsid dinosaur) Named for the heart-shaped frill on its head. A mojo is a charm or talisman, usually to attract the opposite sex. The name started as a joke, but it sounded good and fit well, so it stuck. [J. Paleo. 84: 681]
Mystrium labyrinth Yoshimura & Fisher, 2014 (vampire ant) The epithet is inspired by the ant's reticulated body surface. [Zookeys 394: 1]
Mystrium mirror Yoshimura & Fisher, 2014 (vampire ant) Inspired by the variation within the species, as a magic mirror would reflect different views.
Mystrium shadow Yoshimura & Fisher, 2014 (vampire ant) Inspired by the difficulty of recognizing the species.
Orizabus botox Ratcliffe and Cave, 2006 (scarab beetle) The scarab is unusually wrinkle-free as if it had an injection of botox.
Pandanus candelabrum P.Beauv. (chandelier tree)
Phagocata flamenca Vila-Farré, Sluys 2011 (planarian) Its undulating sides called to mind the ruffles of a flamenco dancer's dress. Appropriately, it is found in Granada, Spain, in the region of Andalucía, home of the flamenco art form. [Zootaxa 2779: 1]
Phyllidia polkadotsa Brunckhorst, 1993 (nudibranch)
Pseudatrichia atombomba Kelsey, 1969 (window fly (Scenopinidae)) Described from Alamagordo, New Mexico.
Pseudogarypus synchrotron Henderickx, 2012 (Eocene pseudoscorpion) Named for "the equipment that allowed detailed visualization of the optically hidden parts of the fossil." [Palaeontologia Electronica 15]
Spigelia genuflexa Popovkin & Struwe, 2011 (tropical herb, Loganiaceae) The specific name refers to "bending of its infructescence branches to the ground, figuratively evoking an image of the etiquette of genuflection."
Stentorceps vuvuzela Nielsen & Buffington, 2011 (figitid wasp) A corniculum on its head is reminiscent of the vuvuzela, a plastic trumpet made famous at the 2010 World Cup. [African Entomol. 19: 597]
Synchrotronia idinineteena Soriano and Pollock 2014 (fungus beetle) This Cretaceous beetle, discovered in opaque amber, was imaged in and named after the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. Its specific epithet refers to beamline ID19, in which the imaging was done.
Triproetus bonbon Fortey and Heward 2015 (trilobite) The rolled trilobite resembles the bonbon boiled sweet. [Acta Palaeo. Polonica 60: 214]
Typhleotris mararybe Sparks & Chakrabarty, 2012 (blind cave fish) Mararybe is Malagasy for "big sickness," referring to the "sinkhole fever" illness contracted by the snorkeling team collecting the fish. [Am. Mus. Nov. 3764]

Companies and Brand Names

Atlascopcosaurus loadsi Rich & Vickers-Rich, 1989 (Australian dinosaur) named after the company Atlas Copco, which provided industrial equipment for the expedition, and for William Loads, the state manager for Atlas Copco at the time, who also assisted during the dig.
Cathartesaura anaerobica Gallina & Apesteguía, 2005 (Cretaceous sauropod) The specific epithet honors Argentinian adhesive company Anaerobicos for its support in extracting and preparing the fossils.
Dypsis mcdonaldiana Beentje, 1995 (palm from Madagascar) named for the hamburger company that funded the research.
Electrolux addisoni Compagno and Heemstra, 2007 (ray) "The name alludes to the well-developed electrogenic properties of this ray (collectors and photographers have experienced the shocking personality of this bold, active and brightly patterned electric ray first-hand), the discovery of which sheds light (Latin, lux) on the rich and poorly-known fish diversity of the Western Indian Ocean. And the vigorous sucking action displayed on the videotape of the feeding ray that was taken by Stephania and Peer Lamberti may rival a well-known electrical device used to suck the detritus from carpets, furniture, and other dust-gathering surfaces in modern homes..." [Smithiana Bulletin]
Ereboporus naturaconservatus K. B. Miller, Gibson and Alarie, 2009 (blind aquifer beetle) The Nature Conservancy owns the preserve where it was discovered.
Fedexia Berman et al., 2010 (fossil amphibian) Named for the FedEx shipping company, which owns the land the fossil was found on.
Futalognkosaurus dukei Calvo et al., 2007 (Argentinian sauropod) Acknowledging the Duke Energy Corporation, a sponsor of the excavation. (The genus means "giant chief of the dinosaurs" in the Mapuche language.)
Gasosaurus constructus Dong & Tang, 1985 (Jurassic theropod) Named for the Dashanpu natural gas mining company (in China), whose construction uncovered it.
Geosesarma dennerle and Geosesarma hagen (Ng, Schubart & Lukhaup, 2015) (crabs) Named after Dennerle and the Rolf C. Hagen Group, German companies which supported the studies.
Habronestes boq Baehr, 2008 (spider) When the Queensland Museum held a fundraising initiative to sell naming rights for a limited number of Australian spiders, the first to sign up was David Liddy, Managing Director at the Bank of Queensland, hence "boq".
Indopinnixa shellorum (crab) Named in honor of Shell Singapore Private Ltd. for its support of a national science program.
Krakatauia planticorum 2004 (long-legged fly) Named after Plantic Technologies, which won naming rights as part of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, for developing a biodegradable plastic.
Nebulasaurus taito Xing et al., 2013 (Jurassic eusauropod) The Taito Corporation of Japan funded the fieldwork.
Oreobates gemcare Padial et al., 2012 (frog) Named for the GEMCare medical group which sponsored one of the expeditions for the study.
Oxybelus cocacolae Verhoeff (sphecid wasp)
Panamericansaurus Calvo & Porfiri, 2010 (Late Cretaceous sauropod) The Pan American Energy company supported the dig financially.
Proceratium google Fisher, 2005 (ant from Madagascar) Named after the internet search engine company in hopes that it will cooperate on a database of all animal life. "Like Google, the ant is really good at finding obscure prey."
Roberthoffstetteria nationalgeographica Marshall, de Muizon & Sige, 1993 (Paleocene mammal) National Geographic probably bankrolled the expedition which found this animal. (Robert Hoffstetter is a paleontologist.)
Arsipoda geographica Gómez-Zurita, 2010 (flea beetle) Also named for the National Geographic Society, which funded the study.
Leaellynasaura amicagraphica Rich & Rich, 1989 (Cretaceous dinosaur). "The specific name L. amicagraphica translates to "friend writing" and honours both the Friends of the Museum of Victoria and the National Geographic Society for their support of Australian paleontology"
Simiolus enjiesi Leakey & Leakey, 1987 (Kenyan Miocene ape) "The species epithet is a phonetic pun on the acronym NGS (National Geographic Society.)"
The NGS says there are also several orchid species, a fish, a sea flea, and a laughing thrush named after it, but I have not found their scientific names.
Roombia Okamoto et al., 2009 (katablepharid, a single-celled flagellate eukaryote) "Named after Roomba(TM), a robotic vacuum cleaner (iRobot, MA) to describe its gliding motion on the surface and active feeding behavior." [PLoS ONE 4(9): e7080]
Scissurella alto Geiger, 2003 Named for the Alto, the first personal computer, in honor of its developers at Xerox PARC and in recognition of the importance of personal computers in systematic biology.
Sinopoda scurion Jager, 1999 (eyeless huntsman spider) The spider was discovered in a Laotian cave and named for the Swiss company Scurion, which makes headlamps for caves.

Religions and Holidays

Aspergillus Micheli (1729) (mold) Its shape reminded its discoverer of an aspergillum (a holy water sprinkler).
Bicentenaria argentina Novas et al. 2012 (coelurosaur) named for the bicentennial of Argentina's autonomous government.
Mantis religiosa Linnaeus, 1758 (praying mantis)
Myrmeciza immaculata concepcion Donegan, 2012 (antbird) [Colombia. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 132: 3]
Parnassius apollo antijesuita Bryk (butterfly) Swedish researcher Felix Bryk gave this name to ridicule the Catholic Church. The insect, which Bryk made speak for itself, ended its description saying (translated from Spanish), "Allow me willingly to take the name of anti-Jesuit in protest against the immorality of those clerical governments in Europe that put up obstacles to progress and let our great Catalan freedom fighter be treacherously shot [freethinker and anarchist Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, executed in Barcelona in 1909]. I know that it is not desirable to intrude policy into nomenclature; but before me, my Russian countryman has expressed his opinion democrática (var. democratus Krul.)..." [Published in the Boletín de la Sociedad Aragonesa de Ciencias Naturales (XI, 1912)] Bryk also gave a politial name to subspecies Parnassius (Driopa) mnemosyne republicanus Peebles & Bryk. Both subspecies names are synonyms and thus invalid.
Presbyornis Wetmore, 1926 (fossil bird) The name refers to Presbyterians.
Pterostichus mujahedeeni Savich, 1999 and P. talibani Savich, 1999 (ground beetles) both from Afghanistan.
Rasta J.D. Taylor & Glover, 2000 (clam) Named after the Rastafari movement because the clam appears to have dreadlocks.
Saturnalia Langer et al., 1999 (prosauropod dinosaur) Named for the Roman winter solstice festival.
Sorex shinto Thomas, 1905 (Shinto shrew)
Strategus mormon Burmeister (scarab)
Tabanus yuleanus Philip, 1950 (horse fly) Named in honor of a memorable Christmas day in 1946.
Zen Jordan, 1903 (dory fish)
Ziapelta Arbour et al. 2014 (Cretaceous ankylosaurid) "Zia" refers to the sacred sun symbol of the Zia people, known most famously from New Mexico's state flag. (Pelta is Latin for a small shield, referring to the dinosaur's osteoderms.) [PLOS One 0108804]

Drugs and Alcohol

Adelina bacardi Steiner, 2006 (darkling beetle) The beetle is the same color as the amber-brown Bacardi rum, and the Bacardi family has contributed significantly to natural resource conservation. [Zootaxa 1158: 17.]
Agave tequilana Weber (blue agave) from which tequila is made.
Artemesia absinthium (wormwood) from which absinthe is distilled.
Atropa belladonna L. (deadly nightshade) Named for the drug's effect: Belladonna means "beautiful lady". Ladies once used it to make their pupils dilate, giving their faces a fetching look (and probably causing distressful side-effects).
Blapstinus kalik Steiner, 2006 (darkling beetle) The beetle's aedeagus resembles a bottle opener, and Kalik is the national beer of the Bahamas (the species' home). [Zootaxa 1158: 21.]
Coffea (coffee tree)
Cuttysarkus Estes, 1964 (fossil salamander) probably after a brand of whiskey. Synonymized with Prodesmodon.
Ilex vomitoria Sol. ex Aiton (holly) So named because pre-Columbian natives from the regions of the southeastern U.S. used a drink made from the leaves and bark of this plant in a vomit-inducing purification ritual.
La cerveza Landry (pyralid moth)
Pseudophoenux vinifera (Buccaneer palm from Hispaniola) Wine can be brewed from its sap.
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.
Scoterpes jackdanieli Shear 2010 (millipede) It was discovered in caves on the grounds of a Jack Daniel's whiskey distillery in Tennessee. "I was hoping to get a free case of bourbon," Shear said, "but they never responded." [Zootaxa 2385: 58]
Strychnos nux-vomica (Southeast Asian tree) Its seeds are the source of strychnine, brucine, and the bitter emetic nux-vomica.
Tastavinsaurus Canudo et al. 2008 (sauropod) Literally, "wine-tasting lizard", but it was named after the Tastavin River in Catalan, Spain, where it was discovered. [J. Vert. Paleo. 28: 712]
Zoogonecticus tequila (goodeid fish)


Alvinocaris Williams and Chace, 1982, Mirocaris Vereshchaka, 1997, Nautilocaris Komai and Segonzac, 2004, and Shinkaicaris Komai and Segonzac, 2005 (shrimp). There are just a few manned submersibles used for deep-ocean (>4000 m) scientific research: Alvin (USA), Mir-1 and Mir-2 (Russia), Nautil (France), and Shinkai-6500 (Japan). They are used, among other things, to explore deep-water hydrothermal vents, which often have endemic shrimp species. There is now a shrimp named for each submersible. [J. Crust. Biol. 2: 136; J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK 77: 425; 84: 1179; J. Nat. Hist. 39: 1111]
Alvinella Desbruyeres and Laubier 1979 and Paralvinella Desbruyeres and Laubier 1982 (polychaete tube-worms). The latter genus has seven species in three subgenera, Paralvinella, Miralvinella and Nautalvinella. Together, these make up the family Alvinellidae.
Bacillus odysseyi La Duc, Satomi & Venkateswaran, 2004 (bacillus) isolated from the surface of the Mars Odyssey orbiter (before it left Earth).
Bucephalus (snake) or Bucephalus (trematode). "Bucephalus" is also the name of Alexander the Great's horse. I am guessing that all three derive from a common etymology ("ox head") rather than the genera being named after the horse. I do not know which name has priority.
Discoverichthys (deep-sea fish)
Dreadnoughtus Lacovara et al., 2014 (Cretaceous titanosaur) The largest known dinosaur, estimated to be 59.3 metric tons and still growing at time of death. In addition to its literal meaning ("fearing nothing"), the name refers to the large battleships of the early 1900s. [Scientific Reports 4, no. 6196]
Frencrinuroides edseli Edgecombe et al., 1998 (trilobite)
Halomonas titanicae Sánchez-Porro, Kaur, Mann, and Ventosa 2010 (bacterium) Discovered in "rusticles" from the wreck of the RMS Titanic.
Heterocricetodon landroveri Daams et al., 1989 (Oligocene rodent) "In honour of our Landrovers, that fortunately did not break down the day we collected the sample at Pareja." [Scripta Geol. 89: 43]
Macrocarpaea canoëfolia, M. kayakifolia, and M. tabula-fluctivagifolia J.R. Grant, 2004 (Peruvian trees, Gentianaceae) Named, respectively, for leaves shaped like canoe, kayak, and surfboard (from "tabula", board + "fluctivagus", surf).
Pentecopterus Lamsdell et al. 2015 (Ordovician eurypterid) Named after the penteconter, an ancient Greek warship, on account of its shape and predatory behavior.
Qantas Novikov, 2012 (Triassic reptile) Quantas Airlines supported the original study.
Qantassaurus Rich & Vickers-Rich, 1999 (Ornithopod dinosaur) Named after Qantas Airlines.
Scrophularia landroveri Wendelbo (figwort) "Named in honour of our trusty Landrover that suffered so much in the cause of botany during our collecting in Afghanistan. The new species is inconspicuous due to the greyish green colours of all its parts --- a colour it shares with the Landrover." The name, however, is currently unresolved.
Sorolopha bruneiregalis Tuck & Robinson, 1994 (tortricid moth) after Royal Brunei 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."
Sturnira Gray, 1842 (bat) The name comes from the Latin for "starling", referring to the HMS Starling, which took part in the voyage in which the type specimen was collected.
Tersicoccus phoenicis Vaishampayan et al. 2013 (gram-positive bacterium) Its name is derived from the Phoenix Mars Lander, which was being prepared when the bacterium was first discovered in the spacecraft clean room in Florida.

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