Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak
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Misc.: Things Named after Scientific Names

9860 Archaeopteryx A main-belt asteroid named after the famous fossil bird.
Arc'teryx An outdoor clothing and sporting goods company, founded in British Columbia, Canada. Its logo is based on the Berlin specimen of Archaeopteryx.
Ruppert Archaeopteryx A Swiss microlift glider.
Archelon Weiland, 1896 (Cretaceous turtle) This turtle was 15 feet long, 4500 lbs., possibly the largest chelonian ever. In the 1966 film "One Million Years B.C.," fur-bikini-clad Raquel Welch encounters a stop-motion giant turtle lumbering toward the sea. She alerts her fellow tribesmen by yelling "Archelon!", the animal's true scientific name and the only 'real' word said by any of the movie's cast. All of the rest of the cavepeople's language was completely made up.
aspirin German chemist Heinrich Dreser coined the name in 1899, basing it on Spiraea (meadow-sweet), the plant from which the medicine was extracted. The a- prefix is from "acetylation" ("acetylierte" in German).
Balaenoptera Musculus Brand name of a radio remote control racing boat from Syma. It is 22 inches long, somewhat smaller than the blue whale for which it is named.
9954 Brachiosaurus A main-belt asteroid.
Charlotte A. Cavatica The heroine of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web is named after the orb-weaver Araneus cavaticus.
Galax, Virginia A town in southwestern Virginia named after an evergreen herbaceous perennial growing in the area.
Haikouella A brand of women's laptop bags, presumably named after Haikouella Chen, Huang and Li, 1999, an early Cambrian fossil chordate.
9941 Iguanodon A main-belt asteroid.
jinx Jynx Linnaeus, 1758 is the wryneck, a perching bird, which was used charms and spells. The word "jinx" came to refer to the spells, and later to any cause of misfortune.
Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) An extract of blood cells from the horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, used to test for bacterial infection because it coagulates with even a trace of gram-negative bacteria.
Mastadon An American heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia.
Mastodon An online self-hosted social networking service, similar to Twitter but with no central host.
Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons The athletic teams of Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Nautilus Pompilius A Soviet/Russian rock band active between 1983-1997, named after the scientific name of the chambered nautilus.
Older Dryas and Younger Dryas Two colder periods after the end of the last ice age, beginning about 14,000 and 12,900 years Before Present respectively. Named after the wildflower Dryas octopetala, whose remains are abundant in deposits from those periods.
Opabinia Films Named after a five-eyed Cambrian stem-arthropod.
Pilobolus A dance company, first performing in 1971, named after the fungus genus Pilobolus Tode (1784).
Robur the Conqueror (French, Robur-le-Conquérant, an 1886 Jules Verne novel) The title character gets his name from the English oak, Quercus robur, suggesting strength.
Spyro Gyra (an American jazz fusion band) When a club owner asked bandleader Jay Beckenstein for a name to put on a sign, Beckenstein jokingly suggested Spirogyra, a filamentous green alga (a.k.a. pond scum), which he remembered from a biology class. The name was then misspelled Spyro Gyra on the sign.
strychnine (an alkaloid poison) Named for the genus from which it is obtained. The poison was discovered in the Asian tree Strychnos ignatii. (The genus name comes from a Greek word for a kind of nightshade.)
Subbuteo (a British table soccer game) named after the small bird of prey Falco subbuteo. Peter Adolph, the game's inventer, wanted to call the game "Hobby", which is the bird's common name.
Sylvester the Cat (Warner Brothers cartoon character; Tweety Bird's lisping nemesis) He might be named after the European wildcat Felis sylvestris sylvestris.
Toronto Raptors (NBA basketball team) Its name, influenced by the film Jurassic Park, is an informal term for the velociraptor.
WD VelociRaptor - A Western Digital hard drive.
Ford Hennessey VelociRaptor 6X6 A 600-horsepower, six-wheel off-road truck.

Common Names Derived from Scientific

Biologists routinely use scientific names in their common discourse, usually because no other word refers to exactly the group of organism they are studying. Several of those terms have entered general usage (e.g. amoeba, eucalyptus, ranunculus). This section is for particularly interesting or unexpected examples.

aphid Linnaeus coined the Modern Latin term aphis (plural aphides) for the plant lice in 1758. How he came up with that name is a mystery. The best guess is that it comes from Greek apheides, "lavishly bestowed", referring either to the insects' prodigious reproduction or their appetite.
guppy From the scientific name Girardinus guppii, which is named after British-born Trinidad clergyman R.J.L. Guppy, who in 1866 supplied the first specimen.
lemur Linnaeus also coined this name for the Madagascar mammals, naming them after lemures, Roman ghosts. "I call them lemurs, because they go around mainly by night, in a certain way similar to humans, and roam with a slow pace."

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