Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak
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Etymology: Interesting Translations

Aegrotocatellus Adrian and Edgecombe, 1995 (trilobite) Latin for "sick puppy".
Agathidium akallebregma Miller & Wheeler, 2005 (slime mold beetle) The specific name is Greek for "ugly face."
Allobates niputidea Grant et al., 2007 (frog) In their paper describing the frog, the authors explain the specific epithet as "the name commonly applied by Colombian herpetologists to this and other small, brown frogs of unknown identity." What they do not say is that the word is actually a colloquial Spanish phrase, "ni puta idea", meaning, "[I have] no fucking idea." [Copeia 4: 844]
Aquilegia (columbine) Aquilegia derives from aquila, Latin for "eagle", because the shape of the flower petals resembles an eagle's claw. The common name "columbine", on the other hand, derives from columba, Latin for "pigeon", because those same petals were fancied to resemble five pigeons. Thus the same flower is named after eagle and dove simultaneously.
Ascolepis erythrocephala Hooper, 1983 (African sedge) Named both for the discoverer Edgar Milne-Redhead, and for the plant's red flower head.
Astraptes obstupefactus Brower, 2010 (skipper) "The name obstupefactus means 'thunder- struck'. This name seems appropriate for a sibling species of A. fulgerator, whose name means 'a priest who interprets omens from lightning'." [Systematics and Biodiversity 8: 487]
Attalea vitrivir Zona (palm) honors palm specialist Sydney Glassman (1919-2008). Attalea glassmanii was already in use, so vitri = glass and vir = man.
Atychodracon (Stutchbury, 1846) (Triassic-Jurassic pliosaur) The name means "unfortunate dragon". The original fossil was destroyed by WWII bombing; the revised genus (originally it was described as a species of Plesiosaurus) is based on casts, photos, and additional specimens.
Bellibos Haugsness & Hessler, 1979 (isopod) "Pretty bull"
Boselaphus tragocamelus (Pallas) (nilgai, an Indian antelope) This translates to "ox-deer goat-camel"
Brachyanax thelestrephones Evenhuis, 1981 (fly) The name translates from Greek to "little chief nipple twister".
Brontomerus Taylor, Wedel and Cifelli, 2011 (early Cretaceous sauropod) name means "thunder thigh"; its fossils were fragmentary but showed that the dinosaur had powerful legs.
Buffalopterus (1962) (eurypterid) Literally, "buffalo wing"; it was named two years before the invention of the chicken buffalo wings.
Catocala (red underwing moths) Many species in this genus are named after brides, fiancees, prostitutes, and related terms: Catocala nupta (Linnaeus, 1767) - nupta = "bride"; C. promissa (Denis & Schiffermüller, 1775) - promissus = "promised; pledged in marriage"; C. elocata (Esper, 1788) - elocata = "one hired out; a prostitute"; C. nymphagoga (Esper, 1788) - nymphagoga = "one who leads the bride from her home to the bridegroom's house"; C. electa (Vieweg, 1790) - electa = "fiancee"; C. pronuba - pronuba = "matron attending a bride"; C. pronubella ; C. pronubana ; C. comes - comes = "companion"; C. villica - villica = "wife of a steward"; C. ancilla - ancilla = "servant".
Chaetopterus pugaporcinus Osborn, 2007 (Deep sea marine worm) translates as "Chaetopterid worm that looks like the rump of a pig."
Colepiocephale Sullivan, 2003 (pachycephalosaurid dinosaur) The name translates to "knucklehead."
Csiromedusa medeopolis (jellyfish) Its epithet is Greek for "city of gonads."
Dziwneono etcetera Dworakowska, 1972 (leafhopper) "Dziwneono" is Polish for "it is strange."
Egretta egrettoides Bonap. (egret) Literally, "egret that looks like an egret."
Ekrixinatosaurus Calvo, Rubilar-Rogers & Moreno, 2004 (Cretaceous theropod) "Explosion-born lizard", so called because its bones were discovered during construction-related blasting.
Enypniastes Théel, 1882 (deep-sea sea cucumber) The name means "dreamer" and is the same word from Genesis 37:19 of the Septuagint: "... Behold, that dreamer comes" (referring to Joseph).
Euarchontoglire (smallest group which includes both rabbits and primates) Translates as "true rulers and dormice."
Eucritta melanolimnetes Clack, 1998 (fossil amphibian) Loosely translates as "Creature from the black lagoon" [Nature 394: 66-69].
Fratercula (puffin). The name probably refers to the puffin's plumage, which looks something like a monastic robe; fraterculus means "small brother". However, fratercula is a feminine form, so the name literally means "small (female) brother". Don't ask me why.
Haimacystis Sumrall, Sprinkle, and Guensburg, 2001 (fossil crinoid) Etymology: "Haimacystis is a compound of the Greek haima, flowing blood, and cystis, sac, referring to the blood dripping from superficial leg wounds suffered by one of the co-authors when the biggest slab of specimens described herein toppled over and almost crushed him." [J. of Paleo. 75: 985-992.]
Halorubrum chaoviator (bacterium) The specific name means "traveller of the void", referring to the bacterium's survival after being exposed in outer space during a space flight.
Halticosaurus von Huene 1908 (Late Triassic theropod) translates to "leaping lizard!"
Homo diluvii testis Scheuchzer, 1726 translates "Man, a witness to the Flood" because it was thought at the time to be the remains of a man drowned in Noah's Flood. Later it was found to be a fossil salamander and renamed Andrias scheuchzeri. Andrias means "man-image", a relic of the original misinterpretation.
Iris innominata L. Henderson (iris) Translated, this iris's name is "unnamed iris."
Kiitoksia kaloista Tong, Vors, and Patterson, 1997 (protozoan) Finnish for "Thank you for the fish", likely a reference to Douglas Adams' book, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. [Polar Biol. 18:91]
Lycoperdon (puffball) Literally, "wolf-fart". The meaning occurs also in its common names in French (vesse-de-loup) and Spanish (pedos de lobo).
Megapnosaurus Ivie, Slipinski & Wegrzynowiwicz, 2001 (theropod dinosaur) Translates as "big dead lizard." (The original name for this genus, Syntarsus, was previously taken by a small living beetle. There is some controversy because this genus was renamed by entomologist Mike Ivie after he was unable to reach Raath, who described the dinosaur originally.)
Mexicope sushara Bruce, 2004 (isopoda) "The epithet combines the Latin words sus (pig) and hara (pen, coop or sty) and alludes to the ability of these preserved specimens to collect adherent detritus; referring to the character 'Pigpen' in the famous comic strip Peanuts, who gathered dirt no matter what."
Moorochloa Veldk. 2004 (grass) Dedicated to the Committee of Botanical Nomenclature on Spermatophytes, which refused to conserve the traditionally well-known name Brachiaria Trin., once with about 120 spp worldwide, suggesting instead that a new genus should be described. The name translates as "fool grass." [Reinwardtia 12: 138]
Osedax mucofloris Glover et al., 2005 (polychaete worm) "Bone-eating snot flower"; it lives in the skeletons of dead whales.
Osteocephalus (slender-legged tree frog) Literally, "bonehead".
Piseinotecus divae Er. Marcus, 1955 (gastropod) "Piseinotecus" means "I stepped on Teco." Teco was a dog belonging to a diva (or to Prof. Diva Corrêa). One of the Marcuses (Evelyne or Ernst) stepped on the dog on the way to the kitchen in the middle of the night.
Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus Johnson & Wilmer, 2015 (fish) The fish, combative and very difficult to catch, was known as the "blue bastard" in fishermen tales. Caeruleo means "blue", and nothus is "bastard".
Pulchrapollia Dyke & Cooper, 2000 (Lower Eocene parrot) Translates to "Pretty Polly".
Schoenesmahl dyspepsia Conrad 2017 (Jurassic lizard) The name roughly translates as "beautiful meal that is difficult to digest." The fossil was found in the gut of a Compsognathus, a predatory dinosaur.
Sibon noalamina Lotzkat et al., 2012 (snake) From no a la mina!, Spanish for "mining? No way!". "This affirmation was and is used by members of the indigenous Ngöbe communities . . . in the course of their protests against mining interests aiming to exploit their territory, especially around Cerro Colorado. The specific name is given in recognition and support of the Ngöbe's struggle to protect their territory and environment . . . from profit-driven destructive interventions." [Zootaxa 3485: 32]
Suuwassea Harris & Dodson, 2004 (sauropod dinosaur) From Crow meaning "first thunder heard in spring," from suu, "thunder" and wassea, "ancient".
Tarsomordeo Adams, 2019 (Cretaceous crocodyliform) The name derives from Latin terms for "ankle biter", in reference to the creature's small size.
Uvarus sinofelihelianthus Epler, 2020 (diving beetle) From "sino", China; "feli-", cat; and "helianthus", sunflower. Named for the Grateful Dead tune "China Cat Sunflower" (by the same person who named Dicrotendipes thanatogratus after the Grateful Dead).
Vampyroteuthis infernalis Chun, 1903 (squid relative) "Vampire squid from Hell".

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