Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak
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Etymology: Misnamed

Acinonyx (cheetah) From Gk. akineo (no movement) + onyx (claw), referring to the popular belief that cheetahs have non-retractable claws. This is not true. Cheetahs' claws are fully retractable, but their retracted claws remain exposed because, unlike other cats, they lack a skin sheath to cover them.
Alligator (alligator) Misspelling of "El lagarto," Spanish for "the lizard."
Ambrosia L. (ragweed) Named after the food of the gods, this genus is a major cause of allergies. Linnaeus was probably considering that ancient herbals recommended A. maritima to treat upset stomachs.
Aldrovanda L. (waterwheel plant) Named after Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi. Gaetano Monti described this plant and named it Aldrovandia in 1747, but when Linnaeus published Species Plantarum in 1753, he dropped the 'i', apparently in error. Since pre-Linnaean taxonomy does not have official standing, we use Linnaeus's later misspelled version.
Apidium (Early Oligocene primate, from Egypt) The name means "little bull" (from Apis and Mnevis, a pair of bulls mentioned on the Rosetta Stone as being used in Egyptian rites); the fossil was orginally thought to be a hoofed animal.
Apus apus (common swift) From Greek for "footless" (see also Paradisaea apoda below). The swift's feet are small but far from absent.
Arctocephalos pusillus (seal) "Pusillus" means "very little", but the seal grows to about 3 meters and one tonne. The type specimen was a juvenile not recognized as such at the time.
Arrhinoceratops Parks, 1921 (ceratopsian dinosaur) Name means "without a nose horn face". Parks interpreted the fossil as having "no trace of a horn core" nor even a vestige of one. In 1981 Helen Tyson restudied it, stating, "To deny the presence of a horn core in Arrhinoceratops, which ... possesses a distinct horn-like organ, contributes neither to the homology of this structure nor to an accurate characterization of the genus."
Barbus viviparus Weber, 1897 (bowstripe barb) Not viviparous but egg-laying, like most fish.
Basilosaurus Harlan, 1834 (Eocene whale) Not a "king lizard", and unrelated to dinosaurs. The original misidentified remains of several animals were combined and sent on a tour as a 130-ft. extinct sea serpent. [Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 4: 379-403]
Bufo marinus (cane toad) The toad is adaptable to many habitats, but it is not marine.
Campanulotes defectus Tendiero, 1969 (down louse), and
Columbicola extinctus Malcolmson, 1937 (flight-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. C. defectus turned out to be a previously described species C. flavens.
Carinella Johnston, 1833 (ribbon worm) The name means "little keel", but the worm has no particular ridge. "Carinella, as its originator says, labours under the disadvantage of being a name which the scholar may 'in vain puzzle himself' to find out 'from what, and whence, it is derived.'" [Wm. Carmichael MacIntosh, 1874, A Monograph of the British Annelids, p. 203]
Cephalopentandra echirrosa (Cogniaux) Jeffrey, 1896 (African plant) Generic name means "head-with-five-stamens without-tendrils", but the flower has only three stamens, and the plant has tendrils.
Chaeropus ecaudatus Ogilby, 1838 (pig-footed bandicoot) The name of this extinct marsupial literally means "pig-foot tailless," but it had the longest tail of any bandicoot. It was described from a specimen which had lost its tail, though accounts differ whether the loss happened during the animal's life or during taxidermy.
Crucibulum extinctorium Lamarck 1822 (gastropod) Not extinct.
Cuniculus Brisson, 1762 (paca) The name means "rabbit" in Latin, but the paca is a rodent, not a lagomorph.
Dasypus L., 1758 (armadillo) The name translates as "shaggy foot" and was originally applied to a rabbit or hare. The Nahuatl word for the armadillo, ayotochtli, translates as "turtle rabbit". Europeans heard this as ayohtochtli, or "gourd rabbit", and called the armadillo "dadypus cucurbitinus." Probably Linnaeus considered the animal closer to a rabbit than a gourd and kept that part of the name, even though the armadillo's feet are scaly, not shaggy.
Dinosauria Owen, 1842 Means "fearfully great lizard" (or, as often quoted, "terrible lizard," but terrible in the sense of "awesome"), but many were small and inoffensive, and none were lizards. It should be noted, however, that there is no Latin word for "reptile," so "saur" had to stand in.
Eonessa anaticula Wetmore, 1938 (Eocene bird) Literally "dawn-duck duckling", the fossil was first described as a primitive duck. The fossil has too little detail to determine its order, but more detailed work shows that it has little similarity to ducks.
Epilachna vigintisexpunctata vigintisexpunctata (28-spotted potato ladybird) "Vigintisexpunctata" means 26-spotted.
Epilachna vigintioctopunctata pardalis (26-spotted potato ladybird). "Vigintioctopunctata" means 28-spotted.
Eucalyptus pauciflora Sieber ex Spreng. (snow gum) The epithet means "few flowers", but the tree produces many clusters of white flowers.
Felis lacustris Gazin, 1933 ("lake cat") The name lacustris (Latin, "lake") does not indicate that this cat had aquatic habits, but indicates its place of origin, the Hagerman Lake Beds. However, the sediments there are now interpreted as a flood plain rather than an ancient lake.
Fregata minor (greater frigate bird) It was originally named Pelecanus minor, the little pelican; when moved to a new genus, priority demanded that it still be called minor. The lesser frigate is F. ariel.
Gelidiophycus freshwateri Boo, Park, & Boo, 2013 (marine alga) Named after Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater, who provided the first molecular systematic study of the Gelidiales and showed that a new genus may be warrented. The alga is not found in fresh water itself. [Taxon 62: 1105-1116]
Geosaurus Cuvier, 1824 (Late Jurassic to early Cretaceous marine crocodile) Means "earth lizard", but it was strictly aquatic.
Globicephala macrorhynchus Gray, 1846 (pilot whale) John Gray, working from skeletal materials only, guessed this whale had a large beak, or macrorhynchus in Greek. But the pilot whale's head is quite rounded, suggesting anything but a beak.
Haemophilus influenzae (bacterium) So named because it was thought to be the cause of influenza, until the virus was discovered in the 1930s.
Hydrangea serratifolia (Hook. & Arn.) F.Phil. (hydrangea) Literally, "with serrated leaves", but leaf edges are typically smooth. The specimen Hooker received from Darwin had apparently been nibbled by pests.
Hyracotherium Owen, 1841 (extinct equid) The name means "hyrax-like beast," but it is a primitive horse, not a hyrax.
Ichthyaetus Kaup, 1829 (gull) The name means "fish eagle", but it not an eagle.
Ixobrychus Billberg, 1828 (dwarf bittern) The name means "mistletoe-roarer". At that time, it was a common belief that bitterns blew into a reed in order to produce their booming call. Billberg was not only mistaken about that, he also confused ixias (an obscure plant which may be a reed) with ixos (mistletoe).
Lawsonia inermis (henna) Originally, henna was called by three names, Lawsonia inermis, L. spinosa, and L. alba, referring respectively to a young spineless plant, an adult spiny plant, and a white-flowered variety. When botanists realized that these were the same species, they chose the name inermis ("unarmed") for it, even though henna does have spines.
Lepas anatifera Linnaeus, 1767 (goose barnacle) "Anatifera" means "goose bearing". It was once widely believed (from the 1100's until the early 1800's) that barnacle geese (Branta "Anas" leucopsis) grew attached to seaside trees by their beaks and clad in shells before dropping into the sea where they became mature geese. The barnacles' food gathering appendages were supposedly protofeathers. The migratory barnacle geese nest in remote areas well above the Arctic circle, so Europeans filled in the unknown part of the birds life history with this bizarre metamorphosis. This legend may have persisted as long as it did because it permitted goose meat to be eaten during Lent.
Libycosaurus Bonnarelli, 1947 (Miocene anthracothere) The name means "lizard of Libya", but it is an artiodactyl mammal.
Lobodon carcinophagus Hombron & Jacquinot, 1842 (crabeater seal) The scientists who discovered this seal, finding soft shell remains in its mouth, inferred that it fed on crabs and named it accordingly, but in fact it eats krill. Crabs are not even found in its Antarctic environment.
Lygistorrhina sanctaecatharinae Thompson 1975 (fungus gnat) Described from a specimen from St. Catherine's Island, GA, so it should be spelled L. sanctaecatherinae.
Megarachne Hunicken, 1980 (fossil terrestrial eurypterid) Named "big spider" based on its interpretation as an enormous Upper Carboniferous therophosid spider, and formerly listed by Guinness as the world's largest spider. It is now shown to be a eurypterid, or sea scorpion.
Meiolania Owen, 1886 (Oligocene-to-Holocene turtle) It was named Meiolania ("small roamer") in reference to Megalania ("large roamer"), a monitor lizard which it was first thought to be a smaller relative of. When more remains were found, it was realized that it was a turtle.
Metaspriggina Simonetta & Insom (Cambrian chordate) Named after, but unrelated to, the Ediacaran organism Spriggina.
Miohippus Marsh, 1874 and Pliohippus Marsh, 1874 (fossil horses) These names refer to the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, respectively. However, most Miohippus are found in the Oligocene, and all Pliohippus are from the Miocene. Marsh believed that his Miohippus fossils were from the Miocene, but later work showed him mistaken. Since Pliohippus was first described, the genus was split in two, with the later Pliocene horses reclassified as Dinohippus, and the date of the Pliocene epoch itself has shrunk. Eohippus is still from the Eocene.
Myrmecobius Waterhouse, 1836 (numbat) The name means "lives on ants", but this marsupial lives on termites, eating ants only incidentally.
Myrmecophaga tridactyla Linnaeus, 1758 (giant anteater) The specific name means "three fingers", but it has five on each foot. Four fingers on each front foot have claws, two of which are particularly elongate. The anteater does, at least, eat ants.
Myxobolus cerebralis Hofer, 1903 (myxosporean parasite) This parasite, the cause of whirling disease in salmon, was originally thought to infect fish brains. In fact, it is primarily a disease of cartilage.
Naashoibitosaurus Hunt and Lucas, 1993 (Cretaceous hadrosaur) So named because the type specimen was collected from what was thought to be Naashoibito Member of the Kirtland Formation, but in fact it came from an older Member.
Navicula antonii Lange-Bertalot (diatom) As stated in the paper's protologue, the name was intended to honor the late diatomist A. Grunow (the name Navicula grunowii was already taken). But Grunow's first name was Albert, not Anton. (Lange-Bertalot later determined this name to be a synonym of N. menisculus var. grunowii.)
Neoleptoneta myopica Gertsch (Tooth Cave spider) The name implies near-sightedness, but the spider is blind.
Neomylodon listai Ameghino (ground sloth) Ground sloths were thought to be still extant in South America during the 19th century. Explorer Ramon Lista once shot at an animal which matched a crude description of one. When fresh-appearing dung and swatches of skin complete with reddish-brown fur and dermal ossicles turned up in an Argentinean cave in 1888, the animal was dubbed "Lista's new Mylodon." 20th century carbon dating revealed the hide to be roughly 13,500 years old.
Nephanes titan Newman, 1834 (beetle) This beetle is 0.4mm long.
Odocoileus virginianus clavium (Key deer) The subspecies name is from Latin clavis, meaning "key (as for a lock)", but the Florida Keys to which the name refers are a completely different kind of key, derived from Spanish cayo, "shoal, reef." A better Latinization would be "cajorum." The genus, which means "hollow tooth", is also verges on being misnamed; the type specimen had tooth cavities, but not moreso than other deer.
Ornithocheiroidea (a subgroup of pterosaurs) British palaeontologist Harry Grovier Seely was convinced that pterosaurs were the ancestors of birds, though, after much criticism, he altered his position to birds and pterosaurs having a close common ancestor. Seely bolstered his arguments by making reference to birds whenever he coined the name for a newly described pterosaur: Ornithocheirus ("bird hand"), Ornithostoma ("bird mouth"), Ornithodesmus ("bird link") -- all within the Ornithocheiroidea. Seely even proposed replacing Pterosauria with "Ornithosauria." In 1993, Ornithodesmus was recognized as a small theropod dinosaur and renamed Istiodactylus Howse, Milner, & Martill, 2001. Ornithocheirus and Ornithostoma are still valid taxa.
Ornithopoda and Theropoda (both dinosaur suborders) The names mean "bird feet" and "beast feet" respectively. Yet theropods are very bird-like (indeed, birds evolved from this group), including their feet, and ornithopods are more beast-like. Ornithopods were so-named for their three-toed feet, but those feet are still less birdlike than the three-toed feet of theropods.
Ontocetus Leidy, 1859 (Miocene walrus) The -cetus means "whale", but the tooth it was named for belonged to a walrus. Onto- probably was intended to mean "existing" (it can also mean "dung"), adding to the error.
Oviraptor philoceratops Osborn, 1924 (theropod dinosaur) The name means "ceratopsian-loving egg raider" 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.)
Pan troglodytes (Linnaeus) (chimpanzee) Linnaeus, relying on unreliable stories, named a species Homo troglodytes. It is not entirely certain which species, since he had no type specimen, but it was probably the chimpanzee, which carries the name today. But "troglodytes" means "cave dweller," and chimps do not live in caves.
Paradisaea apoda Linnaeus, 1760 (greater bird of paradise) "Footless one from paradise"; it was described from two skins brought to Seville in 1522 by the Victoria, the surviving ship from Magellan's circumnavigational voyage. The native Papuans had removed the specimens' legs, and the Europeans therefore assumed that the birds remained airborne their entire lives (with the female laying and brooding eggs in a groove between the male's wings). A live individual captured in 1824 finally revealed that the bird spends most of its life standing on rather massive feet.
Paradoxurus Cuvier 1821 (Asian palm civet). The type specimen, at France's Vincennes Zoo, had a deformed tail, leading Cuvier to think it was prehensile (Paradoxurus = 'with a strange tail'). He called the type species P. hermaphroditus, misnaming it on both counts.
Pelorovis (extinct African cattle) The name means "monstrous sheep", but it is closely related to cows and buffalo.
Peponocephala Nishiwaki & Norris, 1966 (melon-headed whale) The name was supposed to mean "melon head," but pepo does not actually mean "melon," and "pumpkin-headed whale" has not caught on in popular usage.
Phytosauridae Jaeger, 1828 (Triassic semi-aquatic reptiles) Name means "plant lizard" because the petrified mud fillings in the jaw of the first specimen found were thought to be herbivore teeth, but the creatures were wholly carnivorous.
Picrophilus Schleper et al. 1996 (Archaea) This microbe is an extreme acidophile. The genus description says it derives from "Gr. adj. pikros, acidic," but Greek pikros means "bitter", which is more often associated with alkaloids. [IJSEM 46: 814]
Picus awokera Temminck, 1836 (Japanese green woodpecker) Its epithet is almost but not quite a tranliteration of its Japanese name, aogera.
Pompilopterus Rasnitsyn 1975 (Cretaceous spheciform wasp) not a pompilid.
Primobucco Brodkorb 1970 (fossil bird) Bucco is a genus of puffbird, and Primobucco, from its name, should be a primitive bird of that kind, as it was once thought to be. Primobucco's status is not entirely clear yet, but a puffbird it isn't.
Procyon Storr, 1780 (raccoon) The name means "doglike", but raccoons are more closely related to bears.
Raphus cucullatus Linnaeus, 1758 (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 and/or overstuffed specimens.
Richardoestesia Curry, Rigby, & Sloan, 1990 (Cretaceous theropod) The naming authors intended the name to be "Ricardoestesia", the normal latinized version of the name Richard Estes (a paleoherpetologist), but the paper's editors "corrected" it to include the 'h' in all but one figure caption. George Olshevsky, in a 1991 species list, mistakenly called Ricardoestesia the misspelling, thus making the truly misspelt version official.
Scalopus aquaticus (Linnaeus, 1758) (eastern mole) Not aquatic.
Silphium L. (1753) (rosinweed) In classical antiquity, "silphium" referred to a plant, valuable for seasonings and medicine, in the umbellifer family, probably a now-extinct member of the genus Ferula. The genus Silphium is in the Asteraceae family.
Sirenia (manatees and dugongs) Columbus wrote in his log entry of 9 January 1493, "I saw three sirens that came up very high out of the sea. They are not as beautiful as they are painted, since in some ways, they have a face like a man." Columbus and many explorers who followed him thought these inoffensive, rotund, placid, aquatic vegetarians were the deadly sirens or mermaids of fable whose haunting songs lured sailors to their deaths.
Speothos venaticus Lund, 1842 (bush dog) Named by Danish naturalist Peter Wilhelm Lund as a fossil from caves in Brazil, thus its generic name meaning "cave wolf". It was first described in living form in 1843 by the same person, but he failed to realise they were the same animal and named the living dogs Icticyon, which name was used for Speothos until well into the 20th century.
Stegosaurus Marsh 1877 (dinosaur) When O.C. Marsh described the dinosaur, he thought that its distinctive triangular plates covered the creature like a giant turtle, so he named it Stegosaurus, or "roof lizard".
Synthliboramphus wumizusume Temminck, 1836 (Japanese murrelet) The epithet is a mis-transliteration of the bird's Japanese name, umi-suzumi.
Thalassodromeus sethi Kellner & Campos, 2002 (Cretaceous pterosaur) The genus name means "sea runner," referring to presumed skimming behavior, but further analysis shows the pterosaur was most likely a terrestrial forager. The pterosaur's large crest inspired the name "sethi", after the Egyptian god Seth, but Kellner probably confused Seth with Amun, who is depicted with a headdress shaped remarkably like the pterosaur's crest.
Toninia aromatica (Turner ex Sm.) A. Massal. (lichen) The lichen is odorless, but Turner sent it to Smith in a perfumed envelope.
Tsaagan mangas Norell et al., 2006 (Cretaceous maniraptor) "Tsaagan, Mongolian for white; mangas, Mongolian for monster", except Mongolian for white is tsagaan. [Am. Mus. Nov. 3545: 2]
Tupinambis L. (tegu) Linnaeus apparently got the name from Piso & Marcgrave's Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648), which, describing the lizard, begins, "TEIVGVACV & TEMAPARA Tupinambis", or "[It is called by the] Tupinambas 'teiuguacu' and 'temapara'." Rather than using a Tupi name for the lizard, though, Linnaeus took the name for the Tupi ethnic group. "Teiu-guacu" means literally "lizard-big"; there is another genus of South American lizard, Teius, derived from the Tupinamba name.
Viola purpurea (yellow pansy) Neither violet nor purple.
Vulcanodon Raath, 1972 (sauropod dinosaur) Vulcanodon ("volcano tooth") was described from teeth and a headless partial skeleton found in rocks of volcanic origin. It was later found that the teeth were from another (non-sauropod) animal. The skeleton called "volcano tooth" has no known teeth.
Zoraptera Silvestri, 1913 (insect) The name (from Greek) means "pure wingless", but some forms, discovered after the family was described, have four wings.

Location Confusions

Acanthophis antarcticus (death adder) from Australia, not Antarctica.
Androctonus australis (Linnaeus, 1758) (scorpion) Not found in the southern hemisphere. (The genus name, which roughly translates as "man-killer", is accurate.)
Apterocyclus honoluluensis Waterhouse, 1871 (Kauai Flightless Stag Beetle). Named at the British Natural History Museum from a specimen that was mailed in a package postmarked "Honolulu" (on the island of Oahu). Its geographic restriction to the high elevation forests of the island of Kauai was not realized until later.
Asclepias syriaca L. (common milkweed) Native to the eastern United States and southern Canada, not Syria. Linnaeus knew this when he named it, but he preserved the designations given to it by a couple of prior botanists.
Blattella germanica Linnaeus, 1767 (German cockroach) Native to the Great Lakes region of East Africa. Carried across the Mediterranean to Europe over 1000 years ago.
Bucco capensis (collared puffbird): from South America, not the Cape Region of Africa.
Capsicum chinense Although it is used in Chinese cooking, it comes, like all other Capsica, from the Americas.
Cupressus lusitanica Mill. (Mexican cedar) Native to Mexico, though the name lusitanica means "Portuguese." The plant was described in 1768 on the basis of trees imported to Portugal about 1634.
Todus mexicanus Lesson, 1838 (Puerto Rican tody) The bird is endemic to Puerto Rico, not Mexico.
Chelonoidis chilensis Gray, 1870 (turtle) The type specimen was labeled "Valparaiso" (a port in Chile), so Gray named the turtle chilensis. However, Valparaiso was only the ship's point of departure. That species of turtle is found only in Paraguay and Argentina, east of the Andes.
Chrysochloris asiatica (Cape golden mole) From Africa, not Asia.
Chrysolina americana Linnaeus, 1758 (rosemary beetle) Native to the Mediterranean region, not America.
Cupressus lusitanica Mill. (Mexican white cedar) "Lusitanica" means "from Portugal," but the tree is native to Central America. Apparently it was described from Portuguese cultivated trees. [Lorenzi, H. et al. 2003. Árvores exóticas no Brasil, p. 30.]
Cyclamen persicum (Persian cyclamen) This primrose relative grows in many areas of the Middle East, but it is not native to Persia.
Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann 1783) (common or laughing kookaburra). For novaeguineae = New Guinea. Sonnerat pictured this solely-Australian bird in his New Guinea book and claimed to have collected it there. He had in fact probably been given it by Joseph Banks, whom he met in South Africa in 1770.
Eriobotrya japonica (loquat) originally from China, though grown in Japan for 1000 years.
Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) from eastern Asia (it is the National flower of South Korea), not from the Levant.
Hildewintera polonica (cactus) "Polonica" means "from Poland." The cactus is from Bolivia.
Hoplias malabaricus (tiger tetra, a freshwater fish) Pieter Bleeker, a Dutch medical doctor and ichthyologist, stationed in Java between 1848 and 1860, had a wide network of outposts from where he received his specimens. In 1858 a fish he received was said to originate from "the west," which he interpreted as from the Malabar Coast (India's west coast). Now we know it came from much farther west, from the Rio Grande do Sul area in Brazil.
Hoplodactylus duvaucelii (Dumeril and Bibron 1836) (Duvaucel's gecko) It is from New Zealand, but the type specimen was believed to have come from India and so was named after French naturalist Alfred Duvaucel (1796-1824) who spent much of his life collecting in India.
Lagerstroemia indica Linnaeus (crepe myrtle) from China, not India. Lagerström visited several Asian countries, and Linnaeus got this plant's origin wrong when he named it. Also, it is a loosestrife, not a myrtle.
Lilaeopsis chinensis (L.) Kuntze (eastern grasswort) Native to eastern North America, not China.
Lodoicea maldivica (double Coconut or Coco-de-mer) native of the Seychelles, but first thought to come from the Maldives. For centuries, its giant seeds (up to 44 lbs.) had been found floating in the Indian Ocean, but the seeds cannot stand long immersion in sea water. The Seychelles is their only home.
Mustela africana (tropical weasel) From South America, not Africa.
Nerine sarniensis Herb. (Guernsey lily) Sarniensis refers to Guernsey ("Sarnia" to the Romans), one of the Channel Islands between England and France, but the lily is native to southern Africa. One story is that a Dutch ship carrying bulbs of the lily ran aground on Guernsey, and the bulbs washed ashore and took root. Another story is that the shipwrecked Dutch sailors used the bulbs to barter with the natives, representing them as having come from Japan. William Herbert named the genus after the nereids, sea nymphs, treating the plant as a gift of the sea goddesses.
Numenius madagascariensis (Linnaeus, 1766) (Eastern curlew) Linnaeus thought the type specimen came from Madagascar. Neumann (1932) presumed the skin arrived from Makassar (a Portugal colony in Sulavesi Is.), whose name got confused with the better known name "Madagascar". However, Stresemann (1941) has found that the specimen really was taken in the Philippines. The species nests in NE Asia and winters from Philippines to Australia.
Opuntia (cactus) Named after Opus, a city in Greece, although the cactus is native to the New World only. It is named after Opus because Pliny said it grew there, but he must have been referring to something else.
Panthera pardus japonensis Gray, 1862 (North Chinese leopard) From China, not from Japan, where there are no leopards.
Pelargopsis (Halcyon) capensis (stork-billed kingfisher) from southern Asia, not the Cape Region of Africa.
Periplaneta americana Linnaeus, 1758 (American cockroach) It hails from west Africa and was spread worldwide by maritime commerce, reaching North America around 1625.
Pygoscelis papua Forster 1781 (gentoo penguin) Named for Papua = New Guinea. In his 1776 book on New Guinea, Pierre Sonnerat claimed to have discovered three species of penguin on the island, so this species was named accordingly. In fact Sonnerat had stolen the skins from the collection of fellow naturalist Philippe Commerson. There have never been penguins in New Guinea, and Sonnerat never travelled as far east as New Guinea.
Quercus canariensis Wild. (oak) Native to the Iberian Peninsula and northern Africa; not found naturally in the Canary Islands.
Quercus pyrenaica L. (oak) Not present in the Pyrenees.
Rattus norvegicus Berkenhout, 1769 (Norway rat) From East Asia, not Norway.
Salvia hispanica L. 1753 (Spanish sage, chia) described by Linnaeus from a specimen apparently growing wild in Spain, but it had been introduced from Central America by an unknown person, probably for its nutritious seeds.
Scilla peruviana (lily) from the Mediterranean. It was named after a ship, the Peru, which brought it from Spain to England.
Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) native to the American Southwest, not China.
Tangara mexicana (Linnaeus, 1766) (turquoise tanager) Found in northern South America, not Mexico.
Teucrium asiaticum L. (germander) grows on the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, not in Asia.
Teucrium creticum L. (germander) found in Turkey, not Crete.
Turnagra capensis Sparrman, 1787. (Piopio, an extinct New Zealand bird) "Capensis" means "from the Cape." Sparrman, who had sailed with Captain Cook, apparently did not remember the localities where his specimens had been collected and thought the Piopio came from South Africa. The bird also has a common name of New Zealand thrush, although it is unrelated to the thrushes.
Urocolius indicus (red-faced mousebird) from Africa, not India.
Varanus indicus (mangrove monitor): from northern Australia, New Guinea and Sulawesi, not India.
Vini peruviana (blue lorikeet) From Tahiti, not Peru.
Zenaida asiatica (white-winged dove) From Central America and southwest U.S., not Asia.
Zonotrichia capensis (bird, Emberizidae) It lives in South and Central America, but was thought to be taken from Cape Town in South Africa.

Corydalis mediterranea Z.Y.Su & Lidén, 2007 (herb) This name is not wrong but may be misleading. Mediterranea = "from the middle land", which in this case is Zhongguo, China. [Novon 17: 490.]

Scientific and Common Name Disagreements

Armadillo Duméril, 1816 (woodlouse) in family Armadillidae. There is also a genus Armadillidium (the common pill-bug) in the same suborder. The name is Spanish for "little armoured one". The armadillo mammal is family Dasypodidae, named in 1821; none of its genera names come close to "armadillo."
Centipeda Lai et al. 1983 (bacterium) and Centipeda Lour. (Asteraceae) Bacterium or plant, not to be confused with the animal centipede.
Echidna Forster, 1777 (eel) not the echidna. Here, the monotreme might more reasonably be considered misnamed, since Latin echidna, from Greek ekhidna, means "viper". The monotreme echidna comes from the same word, but may have been influenced by Greek ekhinos, "hedgehog, sea urchin."
Erithacus komadori (robin) common Japanese name: Akahige; and
Erithacus akahige (robin) common Japanese name: Komadori. Reputedly, their skins got switched en route to the National Natural History Museum at Leiden, Netherlands.
Fossa fossa (fanaloka, or Madagascan civet) The civet with the common name "fossa" is Cryptoprocta ferox.
Fungia fungites (Linnaeus, 1758) (coral) It is, if not a fungus, at least a "mushroom coral."
Gallinuloides Eastman, 1900 (Eocene bird) Named after, but not closely related to, the gallinules (various aquatic birds in the family Rallidae).
Geranium (flowering perennial) The plants with that common name were originally in that genus, but they were separated out into the genus Pelargonium in 1789. "Pelargonium" has become a newer and more accurate common name.
Gloxinia (flowering herb) The plant with the common name gloxinia was originally classified in that genus but was later moved to another genus; it is now Sinningia speciosa. Both those genera are in the family Gesneriaceae; there is also "creeping gloxinia" (Lophospermum erubescens) in the family Plantaginaceae, and "hardy gloxinia" (Incarvillea delavayi) in the family Bignoniaceae.
Gymnosperma (Asteraceae) An angiosperm, not a gymnosperm.
Hilsa Regan, 1917 (shad) The fish with the common name of hilsa (also ilish) is Tenualosa ilisha (F. Hamilton, 1822). Hilsa kelee, the only species in its genus, has common names of kelee shad, razorbelly, and fivespot herring.
Hydromedusa Wagler, 1830 (snake-necked turtle) Unrelated to the cnidarian hydromedusa, known also as anthomedusa, athecate hydroids, and other names.
Inachus scorpio (spider crab) not a scorpion.
Leopardus (South American small cat) Not the leopard.
Lotus L. (trefoil) The common name usually refers to flowers of aquatic plants in the genus Nelumbo or Nymphaea. The mythical forgetfulness-inducing plant in Homer's Odyssey is thought to be Ziziphus lotus, a buckthorn.
Mammut a mastodon, not a mammoth (mammoths are genus Mammuthus).
Nasturtium (watercress) Not the nasturtium (Tropaeolum). The common name came later, so it should be considered the misnamed one.
Nematodes (false click beetle) Not a nematode.
Panda (an African tree)
Phoebe (laurel tree or shrub) Not the phoebe birds, which are genus Sayornis.
Pinguinus Bonnaterre, 1790 (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 Herbst 1793 (a beetle, family Platypodidae) Not a platypus (which is Ornithorhynchus Shaw 1799).
Puffinus puffinus (Manx shearwater) Not the puffin. It was described from a chick by a scientist who thought it was a puffin.
Sequoia Endl. (coast redwood) The tree with common name sequoia is now Sequoiadendron giganteum. Both trees were originally classified in genus Sequoia. When the genus was split, the redwood, being named first, kept the original genus name.
Thunnus albacares Bonnaterre 1788 (yellowfin, not albacore, tuna) Albacore tuna is T. alalunga. Bonnaterre got his specimens mixed up.

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