what’s in a name?

Taxonomy might have been a bane to many, but I have always enjoyed it. I loved the way plants and animals were named, most of them so eloquently. Names like Quisqualis indica (Rangoon creeper) and Gloriosa superba Gloriosa(Glory lily, a plant with really glorious flowers) used to roll off my tongue. It was a hobby to find out scientific names of all the plants and trees in the neighbourhood and identify them to my friends (who often accused me of making up the names!). We also made up our own scientific names like Horribula terribulatum and Dreadfullia horrendosia for teachers we didn’t particularly like.Even after all these years, I find that taxonomy still fascinates me. Trawling through the internet, I realise that taxonomists have a sense of humour. Here’s what i dug up:

  • Agra vation Erwin (carabid). Though Erwin (the taxonomist) says that there is nothing aggravating about it.
  • Apopyllus now Platnick & Shadab (spider)
  • Carmenelectra shechisme Evenhuis (fossil mythicmyiid)
  • Cyclocephala nodanotherwon Ratcliffe (scarab) Ratcliffe described several others in this large genus.
  • Eubetia bigaulae Brown (moth) pronounced “youbetcha bygolly”.
  • Eurygenius (beetle)
  • Heerz lukenatcha Marsh (braconid)
  • Hunkydora Fleming (clam) 
  • Verae peculya Marsh (braconid)
  • Ytu brutus Spangler (water beetle). “Ytu” comes from the Brazillian word for waterfall.
  • Spottobrotula amaculata Cohen & Nielsen (fish). Literally means “Spotted cusk-eel without spots”.
  • Boselaphus tragocamelus (nilgai). This translates to “ox-deer goat-camel”
  • Megapnosaurus Ivie, Slipinski & Wegrzynowiwicz (dinosaur). Translates as “big dead lizard.”
  • Pulchrapollia Dyke & Cooper (Lower Eocene parrot). Translates to “Pretty Polly”.
  • Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun (squid relative) “Vampire squid from Hell”.
  • Metallichneumon neurospatarchus Sime and Wahl (ichneumonid wasp) “Neurospatarchus” translates as “Master of Puppets,” which is the seminal album by the heavy metal band Metallica. The name refers to the larval ichneumonid’s manipulation of its host insect. (This one is just for you Vic)
  • And finally…
    Afropolonia tgifi Goff.
    “Thank God it’s Friday”



Filed under Science

4 responses to “what’s in a name?

  1. In australia, two fossils were recently discovered; one is known only from a single strange tooth – it was christened ‘Thingodonta’. The second was the skeleton of a huge snake, promptly tagged ‘Montypythonoides’.

  2. Estelle

    I am a scholar of botanical illustration, being an illustrator myself, and am wondering if you could disclose the creator of this beautiful piece ? Much appreciated.

  3. vib

    hi estelle,

    i just got the illustration off the web. i have no idea who created. I’m sorry i can’t help you.

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