Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature gives some of the weirder etymologies of species names:
Aegrotocatellus Adrian and Edgecombe, 1995 (trilobite) Latin for “sick puppy”.
Brachyanax thelestrephones Evenhuis, 1981 (fly) The name translates from Greek to “little chief nipple twister”.
Campsicnemius charliechaplini Evenhuis, 1996 (dolichopodid fly) “Etymology: This species is named in honor of the great silent movie comedian, Charlie Chaplin, because of the curious tendency of this fly to die with its midlegs in a bandy-legged position.”
Bangiomorpha pubescens Butterfield, 2000 (fossil red alga) The fossil shows the first recorded sex act, 1.2 billion years ago. The “bang” in the name was intended as a euphamism for sex.
(Via aldiboronti at Wordorigins.)


  1. Amusing.
    I must ask, how many species are named after the discoverer’s dog?

  2. thatwhichfalls says:

    On similar lines is the database of Drosophila nomenclature at flynome. It’s a list of fruit fly genes with the, often strange, reasons for their names.
    Symbol: osk
    Story: Embryos are small. The mutation is named after Oskar – the boy who wouldn’t grow from the book ‘The Tin Drum’

  3. Chris Booth says:

    Also worth a look is Douglas Yanega’s Curious Scientific Names. My favourite is:

    Cartwrightia cartwrighti Cartwright (scarab beetle; the only scientific name where the genus, species, and author names form a sequence using successive subtraction of the last letter to form the next word).

  4. John Barrett says:

    Mid-Proterozoic fossil genus Bangiomorpha was named for its strong resemblance to the living and abundant shallow – tidal water red alga Bangia and other members of the family Bangiaceae, including economically important genus Porphyra widely eaten in Japan and elsewhere. The ecology and morphology have remained little changed for an amazingly long period. If humor helps in remembering the name, perhaps it may be useful, but I hope casual readers will not get a misconception.
    John Barrett Forks WA USA

Speak Your Mind