Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak
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Etymology: Names from Mythology

Names in this category are numerous. These are just a sample.

Greek and Roman

Achelousaurus horneri Sampson, 1995 (ceratopsian dinosaur). This hornless ceratopsian evolved from horned ancestors. It was named for Achelous, a Greek river god whose horn was broken in a battle with Heracles. The species name (for paleontologist Jack Horner) replaces the lost horn. [J. Vert. Paleo. 15(4)]
Acherontia atropos Linnaeus, A. lachesis Fabricius 1798, and A. styx Westwood, 1847 (deathhead hawk moth) Acheron and Styx are rivers in the Greek underworld. Atropos and Lachesis are two of the Fates.
Acteon Montfort, 1810 (gastropod) Named after the hunter Actaeon of Greek myth. The snails are predatory.
Ajnabia odysseus Longrich et al. 2020 (Cretaceous hadrosaur) Named after Odysseus, the mythical voyager. The genus is Arabic for "foreigner." The fossil's Moroccan location implies hadrosaurs dispersed across ocean barriers.
Psammophis odysseus Georgalis & Szyndlar, 2022 (Miocene snake) The snake's dispersal from northwest Africa to Iberia suggests it might have rafted over the Mediterranean.
Alcione Longrich et al., 2018 (Cretaceous pterosaur) Named for Alcyone, who, in Greek myth, threw herself from a cliff upon learning of her lover's death and was changed into a seabird. [PLoS Biol. 16: e2001663]
Anapachydiscus terminus Ward (late Cretaceous ammonite) "This was the last ammonite ever to have evolved on earth." Named for Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries.
Aphrodite (sea mouse, a polychaete)
Tosanoides aphrodite Pinheiro et al., 2018 (fish) "While we were collecting the Aphrodite anthias, a large Six-gill shark (Hexanchus griseus) came very close to both of us (HTP and LAR), but that didn't divert our attention from the new exquisitely beautiful species, and we never even saw the shark (https://youtu.be/pSZrmoEwR0Q). The beauty of the Aphrodite anthias enchanted us during its discovery much like Aphrodite's beauty enchanted ancient Greek gods." [ZooKeys 786: 105]
Aquarius (water strider)
Ardeola bacchus (Bonaparte, 1855) (Chinese pond heron)
Arethusa (swamp pink) This orchid grows in aquatic environments in eastern North America. Named for a Greek nymph whom Artemis transformed into a spring so that she might not suffer the passions of a river god.
Argonauta argo Linnaeus (paper nautilus) Named for Jason's ship and its crew.
Asklepia Liebke, 1938 (ground beetle) Named after Asklepius, Greek god of healing, for unknown reasons.
Astraptes augeas Brower 2010 (skipper butterfly) Named for the Augean stables, whose cleaning was Hercules' fifth labor. "The name recognizes the enormous throughput of the ACG barcoding endeavour and the resultant labour required of systematists." [Syst. Biodivers. 8: 486]
Athene Boie, 1822 (burrowing owl) The owl was Athene's sacred bird.
Atropoides Werman, 1992 (jumping pitviper) Named after Atropos, the Fate which cuts off a person's life. There are also numerous species with specific epithet atropos, including the adders Bitis atropos Linnaeus, 1758 and Clotho atropos Gray, 1849 (a synonym for Bitis inornata (Smith, 1838)).
Cassiopeia andromeda (Eschscholz) (upside-down sea jelly) Andromeda was the daughter of Cassiopeia in Greek myth.
Cloacina von Linstow 1898 (nematode) found only in the stomachs of kangaroos; named after Cloacina, the Roman goddess of the sewers.
Cyclops (copepod) with a single median eye.
Cyclopes (silky anteater)
Cymodoce, Dynamene, Eurydice, Jaera, Janira, Limnoria (isopods) All of these, described by Leach in 1814, are names of nereids, probably taken from the preface of Fabulae by Hyginus. The first nereid isopod, however, was Ligia Fabricius, 1798.
Daedalosaurus Carroll, 1978 (Late Permian gliding reptile from Madagascar) and Icarosaurus Colbert, 1970 (Upper Triassic gliding reptile from New Jersey), after Daedalus and Icarus.
Icarops Hand et al., 1998 (Miocene bat from Australia) "From Icaros, the mythological Greek who flew towards the sun, in reference to the ancient mystacinid that flew eastwards from Australia to New Zealand." [J. Paleo., 538-540].
Damocles Lund, 1986 (Carboniferous shark) The males had an elaborate projection from the back that ended poised over its head.
Danaus plexippus (monarch butterfly) and D. chrysippus L. 1758 (African monarch butterfly) In Greek mythology, Danaus, king of Lybia, had 50 daughters. His twin brother Aegyptus commanded that his 50 sons marry them. Danaus instructed his daughters to kill their bridegrooms on their wedding night; all but one complied. Plexippus and Chrysippus were two of the slain sons.
Erebus cyclops Felder, 1861 (noctuid moth)
Glaucus Forster, 1777 (nudibranch) Named after a prophetic sea god, a fisherman who turned immortal upon eating a magical herb.
Gorgonocephalus medusae (basket star) The basket star looks like a mass of serpents. Medusa was the most famous of the Gorgons, which had serpents for hair.
Solanum medusae Gouvea, 2019 (herb)
Hades Westwood, 1851 (riodinid butterfly)
Hadoprion (Hinde, 1879) (fossil polychaete) Named after Hades. (The "-prion" means "saw," after the fossil's toothed nature.)
Hadesarchaea (a class of microbes) specialized for living underground.
Geophilus hadesi Stoev, et al. 2015 and Geophilus persephones Foddai & Minelli, 1999 (cave centipedes)
Rapala hades de Nicéville, (1895) (African lycaenid butterfly)
Triclema hades Bethune-Baker, 1910 (butterfly)
Harpia harpyja (harpy eagle)
Harpymimus Barsbold & Perle, 1984 (theropod dinosaur)
Hemiandrus taygete, H. sterope, H. merope, and H. celaeno Trewick et al. 2020 (wetas) Each is named after one of the Pleiades. H. taygete has sternite lobes which resemble the golden horns of the doe into which his namesake was transformed. Sterope is identified with lightning, and H. sterope produces the most rapid drumming. Merope is the faintest of the stars, and H. merope has the faintest of the sternite structures used in identification. H. celaeno is the dark one.
Heracles inexpectatus Worthy et al., 2019 (Miocene parrot) "The nestorid Nelepsittacus from the St Bathans Fauna was named after Neleus. This much larger psittaciform is named after the Greek Heracles, who in Latin was known as Hercules, and who killed Neleus and his sons, except for Nestor. . . . The specific epithet denotes the unexpected nature of this find."
Hermes Montfort, 1810 (snail)
Hydra Linnaeus, 1758 (cnidarian) Presumably so named because, like its namesake, it has multiple appendages and can regenerate.
Hydraena nike Jäch 1995 (beetle) Named for Nike, Greek goddess of victory, because Samothraki, the location of the beetle, is also the source of a superb statue of Nike. [Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 97B: 177-190.]
Idmonarachne Garwood et al. 2016 (Carboniferous spider relative) Named after Arachne, the master weaver of Greek myth who was transformed into a spider, and Idmon, her father, indicating the fossil's close relationship to spiders. (There are several mythical characters named Idmon. The skipper genus Idmon de Nicéville, 1895 is probably named after one of the Argonauts.)
Kerberos Solé et al. 2015 (Eocene hyaenodont) Named after Cerberus (Kerberos in Greek), the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades. [PLoS ONE 10(9)]
Stackelberginia cerberus McKnight, 2017 (fly) The type specimen was found just outside Death Valley National Park.
Thermarces cerberus Rosenblatt and Cohen, 1986 (Eelpout fish) from the Galapagos rift vents.
Scapteriscus cerberus Rodríguez & Heads, 2012 (mole cricket)
Lachesis Daudin, 1803 (bushmaster) This largest of pit vipers is named after the Fate who apportions each individual's lifespan.
Laelaps (mite) named for tenacious dog of Greek mythology.
Mars Jordan & Seale, 1906 (fish)
Merope Newman, 1838 (earwigfly) Merope is one of the Pleaides sisters.
Mercuriceratops gemini Ryan et al., 2014 (Cretaceous ceratopsid dinosaur) Named after Mercury because ornamentation on its head resembles the wings on the head of the Roman god, and Gemini because two almost identical specimens were found.
Moira atropis and M. clotho (heart urchins) In Greek myth, the Moirae are the three Fates, named Atropis, Clotho, and Lachesis.
Myotis midastactus Moratelli & Wilson, 2014 (bat) The specific epithet is "Midas touch" Latinized, alluding to the mythical Greek king whose touch turned everything into gold, referring to the bat's unique golden fur.
Nemertes Cuvier, 1817 (sea worm) Named for the sea nereid Nemertes, wisest of her sisters.
Ouroborus Stanley et al., 2011 (armadillo lizard) The ouroboros is an ancient symbol of a serpent or dragon devouring its own tail. The lizard, when threatened, grabs its tail in its mouth and curls up.
Pan Oken, 1816 (chimpanzee)
Pandora Druguire, 1797 (clam)
Papio hamadryas (hamadryas baboon) Hamadryads, in Greek myth, were nymphs whose lives began and ended with a particular tree. These baboons live in rocky and dry areas and rarely climb trees.
Pectinivalva (Casanovula) minotaurus Hoare, 2013 (moth) Named for the minotaur because its flattened antennae resemble horns. [ZooKeys 278]
Pegasus Linnaeus, 1758 (seamoth fish)
Penelope Merrem, 1786 (guan)
Phaeton Linnaeus, 1758 (tropicbird)
Phoenix (date palm) Probably named not after the mythical bird, but for a king who fought with the Greeks at Troy and is credited with bringing the first date palms to Greece.
Vates phoenix Rivera et al. 2020 (mantis) Referring to the mythical creature that is reborn after being consumed in fire, in homage to the Museu Nacional of Rio de Janeiro, whose entomological collection of 5 million specimens was destroyed when the museum burned in 2018. Only a few specimens on loan, including this species, survived.
Pluto (aphid wasp)
Chalicodoma pluto Smith, 1860 (world's largest bee, from the rainforests of the Moluccas) The type specimen was collected by Alfred R. Wallace. Only one other specimen was found before 1990, when several nests were found in termite nests.
Polyphemus (water flea)
Poseidon Herklots, 1851 (crustacean)
Proteus Laurenti 1768 (blind cave salamander) Europe's only troglobitic chordate. Named for a Greek sea god, the son of Poseidon. There is also Amoeba proteus (amoeba), so named because Proteus had the ability to change form.
Rhea Brisson, 1760 (rhea)
Sagittarius serpentarius (secretary bird)
Scylla De Haan, 1833 and Charybdis De Haan, 1833 (crabs) Both are in the family Portunidae, named after Portunus, Roman god of keys, doors, and ports.
Sisyphus Latreille, 1807 (dung beetle) Named after a king condemned in Hades to roll an immense boulder uphill, only to have it inevitably break free and roll down again, this beetle makes and rolls large balls of dung with greater success.
Sterculius (rove beetle, or plant) Sterculius was the Greek god of the latrine, and rove beetles are often found associated with dung. Sterculius is also a genus of plant, many species of which emit a dung-like odor from flowers or leaves. Its family, Sterculiaceae, also includes chocolate and cola.
Stygia Meigen, 1820 (bombyliid fly, synonym)
Talos Zanno et al., 2011 (birdlike theropod dinosaur) Named for a winged bronze giant of Greek mythology, which could run extremely fast and which succumbed to an ankle wound. The name is also a pun on "talon".
Tethys Linnaeus, 1767 (sea slug) Tethys was both sister and wife of Oceanus.
Titanus giganteus (L) (cerambycid beetle) The world's largest (but not heaviest) beetle.
Upupa antaios Olson, 1975 (extinct giant hoopoe) Named for the Libyan giant Antaios (or Antaeus), who wrestled travelers and used their skulls to decorate a temple to his father Poseidon. Drawing strength from the ground, he was invincible until Heracles held him up.
Urania Fabricius, 1807 (moth) Diurnal moths ironically named after the muse of astronomy.
Venus dione Linnaeus, 1758 (clam) Named after Venus, goddess of love, and Dione, mother of her Greek equivalent Aphrodite, due to the clam's resemblance to human female genetalia. (Its new genus is Hysteroconcha meaning "womb shell".)
Zeus olympius Minter & Diam. (1987) (fungus) discovered on Mt. Olympus. The expedition which discovered it also found, growing on the remains of a Z. olympius, another flask-shaped fungus in the genus Nectria (alas, derived from the Greek for "swimmer", not from nectar, the drink of the gods), which was named Nectria ganymede, after the youth taken to heaven to be Zeus's cupbearer.
Zeus Linnaeus, 1758 (dory fish)


Aegira Willems et al. 2005 (platyhelminth)
Aegirosaurus Bardet & Fernandez, 2000 (Upper Jurassic ichthyosaur) Named for Aegir, god of the oceans and seashores.
Aegirocassis Van Roy et al., 2015 (Ordovician anomalocarid)
"Asgard archaea" - A superphylum of Archaea with some genetic similarities to eukaryotes. Lokiarchaeota was the first phylum proposed; Thorarchaeota, Odinarchaeota, and Heimdallarchaeota have been added to the group.
Asgardaspira Wagner 1999 (snail) It is very loosely coiled, with a serpent-like look. [Smithsonian Contrib. to Paleobiology 88:1-154]
Clossiana frigga, C. freija (Thunberg, 1791) (fritillaries)
Clossiana thore (Hübner, 1803) (fritillary)
Freya Thery, 1943 (buprestid beetle)
Eoconodon nidhoggi Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal) Named for the Nordic corpse-eating underworld serpent (and found in Purgatory Hill).
Midgardia Downey, 1972 (starfish) from the Midgard Serpent, "which lies at the bottom of the sea and encircles the earth." Midgardia xandaros has the longest arms (67 cm.) of any known starfish. [Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 84: 422]
Ragnarok Van Valen, 1978 (paleocene mammal, synonym of Baioconodon Gazin, 1941) for Norse end times, "Doom of the Gods."
Stentorceps heimdalli Nielsen & Buffington, 2011 (figitid wasp) "Named in honour of Heimdall, the Norse god guarding the bridge between Midgard, the world of man, and Asgard, the realm of the gods. He is known for his horn, the Gjallarhorn, which he would blow to announce the beginning of Ragnarök, the end of the world. The large corniculum of S. heimdalli is reminiscent of this horn."
Thor Kingsley, 1878 (Caribbean shrimp)
Scutisorex thori Stanley et al., 2013 (hero shrew) Hero shrews are unusually strong. [Biol. Lett. 9(5)]

Other European

Balaur Csiki et al., 2010 (theropod dinosaur) A balaur is a dragon-like creature from Romanian myth.
Bosmina Baird, 1845 (water flea) Named, according to Baird, after a daughter of Fingal, which is another name of Fionn mac Cumhaill, hunter-warrior of Irish mythology. However, Baird drew from the Ossian cycle, supposed to be a translation of the Gaelic, but actually mostly original work of poet James Macpherson.
Juratelacrima Fanti & Damgaard, 2018 (Eocene soldier beetle from amber) The goddess (sometimes called a mermaid or undine) Jurate lived under the Baltic Sea in an amber castle. When she fell in love with a fisherman named Kastytis, Perkunas, the thunder god, angrily destroyed the amber castle and (in some versions) killed Kastytis. Therefore, amber found around the Baltic is the remains of the castle or the tears (lacrima in Latin) of Jurate. [Baltic J. Coleop. 18: 12]
Melusinaster Thuy & Stöhr, 2018 (Jurassic basket star) Named for Melusina, a mythical woman who, according to legend, demanded privacy every Saturday after her marriage. When her husband, Count Sigefroid, spied on her, he discovered she was a mermaid, and Melusina fled and was never seen again. The implication for the fossil is that nothing is what it first seems. [Sci. Reports 8, 8493]
Sampo Öpik, 1933 (Ordovician brachiopod) named for the three-sided magic mill that in Finnish mythology created flour, salt, and gold.
Zalmoxes Nopsca, 1899 (Cretaceous iguanodontid) Named for the Dacian supreme deity Zalmoxis.
Euphyia zalmoxis Thierry-Mieg, 1894 (moth)
Papilio zalmoxis Hewitson, 1864 (butterfly)
Zilantophis Jasinski & Moscato (Miocene or Eocene snake) Named after Zilant, a winged serpent in Tatar mythology, because of wing-shaped projections on the side of the fossil's vertebrae.

Christian and Middle East

Angelica archangelica Linnaeus (umbellifer) Traditionally said to bloom on May 8, the day of St. Michael the Archangel.
Apocrypha Eschscholtz, 1831 (darkling beetle)
Araniella mithra Zamani et al. 2020 (orb-web spider) Named for the Indo-Iranian god of light.
Arca noae (clam) after Noah's ark.
Anzu Lamanna et al., 2014 (theropod dinosaur) Named for a feathered demon in Akkadian and Sumerian mythology.
Behemotops Domning, Ray & McKenna 1986 (Oligocene marine mammal) from Behemoth.
Cryptomaster behemoth Starrett & Derkarabetian, 2016 and Cryptomaster leviathan Briggs, 1969 (daddy long-legs)
Ophioleviathan Thuy, 2013 (Jurassic brittle star) [Euro. J. Tax. 48: 193]
Delilah Dillon & Dillon, 1945 (longhorn beetle)
Lasiopogon esau McKnight, 2017 (robber fly) The biblical Esau was described as hairy and a cunning hunter, both apropos also of the fly.
Mirapinna esau Bertelsen and Marshall 1956 (hairy fish) Named after Esau, a hairy character of the Bible. The fish has curious growths all over its body, making it look like it is covered in fur.
Livyatan Lambert et al. 2010 (fossil sperm whale). Originally named Leviathan, but that name was junior homonym; German paleontologist Albert Koch used it for an American mastadon skeleton in 1841, which name was itself invalid as Mammut had priority. Lambert et al. renamed the fossil whale Livyatan, from the original Hebrew spelling. [Nature 466: 105, 1134]
Goliathus (African scarab) One of the world's largest beetles.
Golem Whitley, 1957 (frogfish)
Ifrita Rothschild 1898 (blue-capped babbler of New Guinea) from Arabic ifrit 'djinn or spirit'.
Ipomopsis sancti-spiritus (Polemoniaceae) Holy ghost Ipomopsis, an endangered plant.
Neopagetopsis ionah Nybelin, 1947 (Jonah's icefish) So named because the type specimen was found inside a whale.
Ophiolimna tiamatia Thuy, 2013 (Jurassic brittle star) "Named after Tiamat, primordial goddess of the ocean and chaos monster in Babylonian mythology, in reference to the fact that this species is the oldest currently known occurrence of the Ophiolimna lineage and, on account of its deep-water origin, thus challenges the widely accepted concepts of the macroevolutionary significance of deep-water habitats." [Euro. J. Tax. 48: 65]
Purgatorius (Paleocene fossil primate) Named after Purgatory Hill, Montana?
Ziziphus spina-christi (L.) (spiny shrub or tree) Christ's crown-of-thorns is traditionally said to have been made from this plant.

Baalzebub (spider)
Beelzebufo Evans, Jones and Krause, 2008 (Cretaceous frog from Madagascar) nicknamed "the frog from hell" by the researchers.
Ateles belzebuth (white-fronted spider monkey)
Murina beelzebub Csorba et al., 2011 (tube-nosed bat)
Diabloceratops Kirkland et al., 2010 (Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur) Its horns and neck shield evoke images of the devil.
Telipogon diabolicus Kolanowska et al. 2016 (orchid) Its gynostemium (union of stamens and pistils) resembles a devil's head.
Lucifer Doderlein, 1882 (fish)
Paraxerus lucifer (rodent)
Mephisto Tyler, 1966 (spikefish)
Halicephalobus mephisto Borgonie et al., 2011 (nematode) The deepest known land animal, discovered 2.2 miles underground.
Bubalus mephistopheles (Hopwood, 1925) (extinct buffalo)
Pudu mephistopheles (Northern Pudu deer)
Satan Hubbs & Bailey, 1947 (catfish) A blind unpigmented fish from artesian wells 1000-1250 feet underground, near San Antonio, TX. "Satan eurystomus signifies 'wide-mouthed prince of darkness.'" [Occasional Papers Mus. Zool., U. of Mich. 499: 1-15.]
Satanoperca lilith Kullander & Ferreira 1988 (Amazonian cichlid) There were also S. daemon and S. jurupari (the latter named after a Tupi forest demon), but these have been moved to the genus Geophagus. [Cybium 12(4): 344; Ann. Wien. Mus. Naturges. 2: 389,392]
Solidago satanica Lunell, 1911 (goldenrod) Its type specimen came from Devil's Lake, North Dakota. (It is now probably synonymized with another species.) [American Midland Naturalist 2: 58]
Chiropotes satanas (Hoffmannsegg, 1807) (black bearded saki)
Colobus satanas (black colobus, sometimes called satanic colobus)
Daimonelix Barbour, 1891 ("Devil's corkscrew", nine-foot spiral tubes, trace fossil burrows of the Miocene beaver Paleocastor)

Arachnanthus lilith Stampar & El Didi, 2018 (tube anemone) Lilith was a mythological female night demon in ancient Mesopotamia; the species is known from the Red Sea and was found extended only at night. [ZooKeys 748:1]
Astarte (clam)
Moloch Gray, 1841 (thorny devil lizard) Named after a Canaanite god as depicted by Milton.
Ninurta Stanley et al., 2011 (blue-spotted girdled lizard) Ninurta was the Sumerian and Akkadian god of, among other things, rain and the south wind. The lizard's genus refers to its occurrence along the cool, moist south coast of South Africa. [Mol. Phylo. Evo. 58: 53]
Simurghia Longrich et al., 2018 (Cretaceous pterosaur) Named for Simurgh, a flying beast from Persian mythology. [PLoS Biol. 16: e2001663]
Stygimoloch Galton & Sues, 1983 (pachycephalosaur) from "Styx", for the Hell Creek Formation; "Moloch", after a Canaanite god.
Zu Walters & Fitch, 1960 (ribbonfish) Zu was an lesser Akkadian deity.


Abydosaurus (brachiosaur) Described from a fossilized skull and cervical vertebrae, it is named for the town Abydos in Egypt, where Osiris's head and neck were buried.
Ammonoidea (ammonite, fossil cephalopod) Named after the Egyptian god Amun (Ammon), who was represented by a ram, because the shells resemble ram's horns--in particular, the Horn of Ammon, the cornucopia from Roman myth.
Anubis Thomson, 1864 (longhorn beetle)
Papio anubis (olive baboon) The baboon was sacred in Egypt.
Phiomicetus anubis Gohar et al. 2021 (Eocene whale)
Tasmaniosoma anubis Mesibov 2015 (millipede) So named because the tip of the male genitalia resembles popular depictions of the jackal-headed god. [ZooKeys 488: 31]
Euderus set Ward et al. 2019 (parasitic wasp) This wasp manipulates the behavior of other parasitic gall wasps, causing them to stick in an exit tunnel as E. set's larvae eat them from the inside. It is named after Set, Egyptian god of war and chaos.
Thalassodromeus sethi Kellner & Campos, 2002 (Cretaceous pterosaur) Named after the Egyptian god Seth because of the shape of its large crest. (But probably the god Amun, whose crown is a closer match, was intended.)
Kheper aegyptiorum Latreille, 1827 (dung beetle) Named after Khepera, god of the rising sun; the dung beetle is his emblem.
Osiris (bee)
Sphinx Linnaeus, 1758 (sphinx moth)
Cynopterus sphinx (short-eared fruit bat)
Mandrillus sphinx (mandrill)
Thoth Linnavuori, 1993 (plant bug)


Jobaria Sereno et al, 1999 (Cretaceous sauropod) from the Niger Republic; named for "Jobar", a creature from Tuareg mythology.

Northern Asia

Azhdarcho Nessov, 1984 (Cretaceous Uzbekistan pterosaur) named for an Uzbek dragon.
Erlikosaurus Perle, 1980 (Mongolian therizinosaur) Erlik is the Siberian/Mongolian god of the dead.
Gorynychus Kammerer & Masyutin, 2018 (Permian therocephalian) This wolf-sized proto-mammal is named after the Russian dragon Zmey Gorynych; also a play on the word "gory" and the Greek onychus, 'claw'. [PeerJ 6:e4933]
Indricotherium (Oligo-Miocene rhinoceros) This, the largest terrestrial mammal, was named for Indrik, the Lord of the Animals in Russian folklore. Ironically, Indricotherium was hornless, while Lord Indrik was horned.
Monosmilus chureloides Capobianco et al. 2020 (Eocene fish) The species is named after Churel, an Urdu shapeshifting vampire-like demon with large fangs.
Nochnitsa Kammerer & Masyutin, 2018 (Permian gorgonopsian therapsid) Named for a nocturnal spirit in Slavic legend, often portrayed as a female apparition that attacks sleeping people; intended as a regionally appropriate counterpart to the usual "gorgon", referring to hags from Greek myth. [PeerJ 6:e4954]
Oksoko Funston et al. 2020 (Cretaceous oviraptorosaur) Named for a three-headed eagle from Altaic mythology; the holotype assemblage preserved three skulls.
Samrukia Naish et al., 2012 (Cretaceous pterosaur) Named after Samruk, a Kazakh mythical bird.
Sordes Sharov, 1971 (Jurassic Kazakhstan pterosaur) named for a Russian demon.


Apsaravis Norell & Clark, 2001 (fossil bird) 'Apsara' (Sanskrit), winged consorts prominent in Buddhist and Hindu art, plus 'avis' (Gk), bird.
Brahmaea (moth)
Bramatherium Falconer, 1845 (Miocene giraffid),
Vishnutherium (fossil giraffid),
Sivatherium Falconer & Cautley, 1832 (Pleistocene giraffid) Named for the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer. All these giraffids are from India.
Citipati Clark, Norell & Barsbold, 2001 (oviraptor dinosaur) Citipati are funeral demons from Buddhist tradition, often represented by two dancing skeletons, representing the impermanence of worldly things.
Dibasterium durgae Briggs et al., 2012 (fossil horseshoe crab) Named for the Hindu goddess Durga, who has many arms. (The genus name refers to double limbs.) [PNAS 109: 15702]
Electrokenenia yaksha (fossil microwhip scorpion) The Yaksha are South Asian spirits which are caretakers of the natural treasures of the natural world.
Garudimimus Barsbold, 1981 (theropod dinosaur) "Garuda mimic"; Garuda is the Hindu prince of birds and national symbol of Indonesia.
Megalara garuda Kimsey & Ohl, 2012 (wasp) from Sulawesi, Indonesia. [ZooKeys 177: 49]
Indrasaurus O'Connor et al. 2019 (Cretaceous lizard) In Hindu myth, Indra fought a dragon which swallowed the deity whole. The lizard fossil was found within the abdomen of a Microraptor dinosaur.
Kali Lloyd, 1909 (deep-sea swallower fish)
Kuru kulla Napoli et al. 2021 (Cretaceous dromaeosaurid) Named for the Tibetan Buddhist deity Kurukulla.
Lakhsmia venusta (Thwaites) Veldk., 2008 (grass from Sri Lanka) Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of beauty, charm, prosperity, and other positive things. The specific epithet derives from the Roman goddess of beauty, Venus. [Rheedea 18]
Protogryllus lakshmi Pérez-de la Fuente et al., 2012 (Jurassic cricket) Here, Lakshmi's influence over wealth and prosperity is the inspiration.
Lapidaster varuna Thuy, 2013 (Jurassic brittle star) Named after Varuna, Hindu god of the oceans. [Euro. J. Tax. 48: 37]
Oryctoperus varuna Hiremath & Prathapan, 2021 (Jerusalem cricket) Named after Varuna, god of rains, because it was found in India, coming into the open following rains.
Ramapithecus (Miocene ape) from Pakistan; named after Rama.
Shri devi Turner et al. 2021 (Cretaceous dromaeosaurid) "Shri Devi" is a Sanskrit name for Palden Lhamo, a protector goddess in Tibetan/Mongolian Buddhism. The fossil is from Mongolia.
Sivapithecus (Miocene ape) from India; named after Siva.
Stegodon ganesa (Pliocene elephant) Named for Ganesa, the elephant-headed Hindu god of wisdom and art. It was the subject of the world's first postage stamp featuring a reconstructed prehistoric animal (in India, Jan. 1951).
Wathondara Wang et al., 2015 (Cretaceous scale insect) named for an earth goddess of Buddhist mythology. [eLife 4: e05447]
Yamaceratops Makovicky & Norell, 2006 (Mongolian ceratopsian dinosaur) named for Yama, a Tibetan Buddhist deity.

East Asian

Aorun Choiniere et al. 2013 (theropod dinosaur) Named for Ao Run, the Dragon King of the West Sea, from the Mandarin epic Journey to the West.
Globba aranyaniae Sangvir. & M.F. Newman (ginger) Its type locality is Pha Nang Khoy, "Cave of the Lady who Waits". Aranyani is the princess in the myth relating to that place.
Hynobius oni Kanamori et al. 2022 (salamander) An Oni is a traditional Japanese demon. The type locality is in the Oni-ga-jo Mountains, where it was believed Oni lived.
Izanami Galil & Clark, 1994 (Matutine crab) named for Izanami, the primordial goddess in Japanese Shinto mythology.
Mahakala Turner et al., 2007 Named for one of eight protector deities of Tibetan Buddhism.
Pachyrhynchus panumanon Cabras & Medina, 2022 (weevil) Panumanon is the Higaunan (in Mindanao, Philippines) god who guards animals, including insects.
Rhabdophis chiwen Chen et al. 2020 (snake) Chiwen, ninth son Loong in Chinese myth, enjoyed eating fire. The snake eats fireflies.
Tara Peckham & Peckham, 1886 (jumping spider) named for the Buddhist saviour-goddess, the feminine counterpart of the bodhisattva.
Wathondara Bo Wang et al., 2015 (Mesozoic scale insect) Named after a Buddhist goddess of earth in southeast Asia.
Xingtianosaurus ganqi Qiu et al. 2019 (Cretaceous Oviraptorosaurid) The genus is named after XingTian, a Chinese deity who continued to fight even after his head was cut off, referring to the holotype's fossil missing its skull. Ganqi was his weapon. (Both names are recorded in the Chinese classic Shanhaijing.)
Yuanchuavis Wang et al. 2021 (Cretaceous bird) Named after Yuanchu, a mythical Chinese bird.

Australian and Pacific

Arkarua Gehling, 1987 (Ediacaran echinoderm) Named after Arkaru, a giant snake from the mythology of the Adnajamathana people of the central Flinders Ranges.
Kakuru Molnar & Pledge, 1980 (theropod dinosaur) "Rainbow serpent" from South Australia. It is the only known dinosaur preserved as opal.
Kiwa 2006 ("yeti crab") Named for the Polynesian goddess of crustaceans.
Mauisaurus Hector 1874 (plesiosaur from New Zealand) after Maui, a demi-god of Maori mythology.
Obdurodon tharalkooschild Pian et al., 2013 (Miocene platypus) The specific epithet comes from a myth from South Australia (from the Dieyerie people?) in which a duck named Tharalkoo is ravished by a water rat and gives birth to the platypus.
Pseudionella akuaku Boyko & Williams, 2001 (isopod (Crustacea: Isopoda: Bopyroidea) parasitic on hermit crabs) Named after a Polynesian spirit known to pinch children.
Quinkana Molnar, 1981 (extinct crocodylian) Named after the Quinkans, a legendary folk often depicted in Australian rock art.
Tangaroa Lehtinen, 1967 (Tahitian uloborid spider) named for the Tahitian god of the sea.
Taniwhasaurus Hector 1874 (mosasaur from New Zealand) A taniwha is a dragon-like giant lizard of Maori myth.
Tinirau Swartz, 2012 (Devonian fish) Named for Tinirau, a Polynesian god, gaurdian of fish.
Wonambi Smith, 1976 (extinct snake) This giant snake takes its name from a South Australian aboriginal name for the Rainbow Serpent.
Woolungasaurus Persson 1964 (plesiosaur from Australia) after the Woolunga, a reptile-like beast from Aborigine mythology.
Xevioso Lehtinen, 1967 (Amaurobiid spider) named for a West African god of storm.
Yhi Barnard & Thomas, 1991 (amphipod) Named for an Australian (specifically, Karraur) goddess of light and creation.
Yurlunggur Scanlon, 1992 (Middle Miocene madtsoiid python) named for the Australian rainbow serpent Yurlunggur.

Central America

Agave muxii Zamudio & G. Aguilar-Gutiérrez (agave) Refers to Muxi, god of rain in the Teenek (Huastec) culture.
Alabagrus coatlicue, A. ixtilton, A. mixcoatl, and A. xolotl (Braconid wasps) named for Aztec deities.
Aztlanolagus Russell & Harris, 1986. (Aztlán rabbit, a Pliocene/Pleistocene lagomorph). Aztlán is the legendary place of origin of the Nahua peoples as recorded in the mythology of the Aztecs and other Nahua groups. Some traditions place it in the border regions of the Southwestern United States and adjacent northern Mexico.
Xibalbanus tulumensis (Yager, 1987) (remipede) Literally, "From Xibalba at Tulum"; Xibalba is the Mayan underworld; Tulum is a place on the Yucatan Peninsula, where this species was found in caves.
Eurhopalothrix hunhau, E. mabuya, E. xibalba and E. zipacna Longino, 2013 (ants) All names relate to the Mayan underworld. Xibalba is name of the Mayan underworld. Hunhau is a Mayan death god and a lord of the underworld. Zipacna is a crocodile-like demon, and Mabuya another demon. [Zootaxa 3693: 101]
Mammillaria huitzilopochtli Hunt, 1979 (Mexican cactus) Named for Huitzilopochtli, an Aztec war god.
Tlaloc Alvarez & Carranza, 1951 (Central American killifish) named for the Aztec rain and fertility deity.
Quetzalcoatlus northropi Lawson, 1975 (Texas pterosaur) Named after an Aztec god and an aircraft designer. The pterosaur was as large as an ultra-light plane.
Chrysina quetzalcoatli (Honduran jewel scarab)

Other Native American

Aleiodes mannegishii Fortier, 2009 (braconid wasp) "refers to tricksters called the Mannegishi, with large eyes, mythical 'little people' described by the Cree People."
Aleiodes selu Fortier, 2009 (braconid wasp) "refers to the Cherokee Corn Woman, Selu, and refers to the bright yellow-orange coloration of the female." [Zootaxa 2256]
Ancistrus yutajae de Souza et al., 2019 (fish) Named for two ill-fated lovers from Amazonian legend. The fish was discovered on Valentine's Day.
Anhanguera Campos & Kellner, 1985 (Brazilian pterosaur) named for a Tupian spirit.
Atopophlebia pitculya Flowers, 2012 (mayfly) Named for a mythical being which the Cayapas of Ecuador say lives in streams and decorates its body with yellow dye. The mayfly is yellow. [Zootaxa 3478: 15]
Brontotherium Marsh (Oligocene ungulate) Named for the Sioux mythical "Thunder beast" (albeit in Greek, not Siouxan) associated with the big fossils exposed by thunderstorms in the Dakota badlands.
Gaulicho Apesteguía et al., 2016 (Cretaceous theropod) Apesteguía's team discovered the skeleton in Patagonia in 2007 but could not collect it then due to a broken down truck. They jacketed the remains, but another museum retrieved them without the discoverers' knowledge or consent. Eventually, the skeleton was returned, formally described, and named after the gualicho, an evil spirit in Mapuche mythology, because of the ordeal of collecting the specimen.
Hemimastix kukwesjijk Eglit & Simpson, 2018 (Hemimastigophora) Named after Kukwes, a hairy, rapacious ogre from traditions of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, in the region where the specimen was collected. The "-jijk" means "little."
Hoplias curupira Oyakawa & Mattox, 2009 (wolf fish) Named after the Curupira, a mischievous creature of Brazilian folklore that protects the forest; it appears as a small child with its feet turned backwards, making it difficult to follow its tracks. The fish was so named because it took almost 18 years to gather enough material for the description. [Neotrop. Ichthyol. 7: 128]
Kelenken guillermoi Bertelli et al., 2007 (phorusrhacid) An extinct giant flightless carnivorous bird named after a 'fearsome spirit of the Tehuelche tribe ... represented as [a] giant bird of prey' [J. Vert. Paleontol. 27: 409]
Kokopellia Cifelli, 1993 (Cretaceous mammal) Named for Kokopelli, flute-playing god of the Anasazi. [PNAS 90: 9413]
Macrosqualodelphis ukupachai Bianucci et al., 2018 (Miocene dolphin relative) From "Uku Pacha" (literally "within Earth"), the Inca underworld, in reference to the specimen being found buried in sediment.
Maip (Cretaceous theropod) Maip is an entity from Aonikenk (Tehuelche, in Patagonia) myth which represents the shadow of death.
Mapinguari Wiedemann, 1828 (gigantic mydid flies) Named for an ogre of Amazonian Indian folklore. Only three specimens are known.
Sacisaurus Ferigolo & Langer, 2006 (ornithischian dinosaur) named for Saci, a one-legged elf from Brazilian folklore, because the fossil was missing a leg.
Seitaad (sauropodomorph dinosaur) named for a mythological Navajo beast that swallowed its prey in sand dunes, alluding to the own creature's death.
Sericomyrmex saramama Ješovnik & Schultz, 2017 (ant) Saramama is the Incan goddess of grain. The ant is found in Peru and practices agriculture.
Siats Zanno & Makovicky, 2013 (theropod dinosaur) This giant Cretaceous predator discovered in Utah is named after the siats (pronounced "see-atch"), a voracious monster of Ute legend.
Tapejara Kellner, 1990 (Brazilian pterosaur) "The old being" from Tupi mythology.
Tupilakosaurus Nielsen, 1954 (fossil amphibian) named after an Inuit water spirit.
Tupuxuara Kellner & Campos, 1989 (pterosaur from Brazil) named for a Tupian "familiar spirit".
Yawunik kootenayi Aria et al., 2015 (Cambrian predatory arthropod) Named after Yawuˀnik, a sea monster from the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) creation myth, which caused such disturbance that the other animals hunted and destroyed him.
Zupaysaurus Arcucci & Coria, 2003 (Triassic theropod) Supay (aka Zupay) was the Incan god of death and ruler of the underworld.

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