The Name Game

3 03 2009

Good tidings and well-wishes!

Recently, Dr. Hungerbuehler has been teaching his  paleontology program students (including yours truly) about the intricacies of nomenclature (the process of giving scientific names to organisms, genes, or phenomena). Though this may sound dry, it’s actually a highly complex and interesting process which is subject to a myriad of renovations and alterations.

However, until recently, I wasn’t aware that it is also a popular source of humor for much of the scientific community. Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature is a website I discovered while researching the subject which is dedicated to exposing Latinized names which have been subjected to (intentionally or otherwise)  puns, wordplay, inside jokes, and even insults. Below are a few of my favorites:

Buffalopterus which is a species of eurypterid and whose name literally translates to ‘Buffalo wing’.

Chaetopterus pugapornicus (a species of deep-marine sea worm) the species (second) name of which means “looks like the rump of a pig.”

Vini vidivici (a species of extinct parrot).

Ittibittium (a genus of mollusc which is smaller than those belonging to the genus Bittium…and no, I’m not making this up)

Heerz tooya (a branconid)

Pieza rhea (a mythicomyiid fly)

Colon rectum (a species of beetle…I guess the authors were up a wee bit too late when they coined this one)

-“Superman” is the name of a flower-related gene in Arabidopsis and is supressed by a gene called “Kryptonite” (I guess “Lex Luthor” was unavailable).

Never let it be said that scientists lack a sense of humor!

May the fossil record (and the rest of the natural world) continue to enchant us all and inspire more of these epic scientific names!




5 responses

5 03 2009
Zach Miller

Yeah, taxonomy and nomenclature is full of interesting tidbits like that. I forget the genus, but there’s one dinosaur that was named by an entymologist which means “big dead lizard.”

6 03 2009

Hey Zach! You’re thinking of ‘Megapnosaurus’ rhodesiensis (now known as Coelophysis rhodesiensis). By the by, I love your blog!

7 03 2009
Zach Miller

Glad somebody does, brother. 🙂

And yeah, that’s the one. I kind of like that name, too.

13 03 2009
Does anyone know the name of a certain video game marketing company? |

[…] The Name Game « The Theatrical Tanystropheus […]

22 07 2009

And the “Colon rectum” beetle isn´t related to the “Enema pan” one?…..:-D

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