Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature
Mark Isaak
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Puns: Double Meanings

Aenigmatinea glatzella Kristensen & Edwards, 2020 (moth) Named after its discoverer, R. V. Glatz, but also alluding to the dearth of head scales, glatze being German for "bald."
Alderia willowi Krug et al. 2007 (sea slug) "The species name derives from several sources: (1) because the cerata droop over the edge of the body on large specimens, resembling a willow tree; (2) an homage to the first author's grandmother, who always sang him a song that starts, '... so I ask each weeping willow ...', and (3) a tribute to the character of Willow from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who (as played by Alyson Hannigan) embodied the idea of sexual flexibility, in recognition of the variable reproductive modes in Alderia." [J. Molluscan Studies 73:29]
Balaenoptera musculus Linneaus (blue whale) Musculus could mean "muscular," but it can also be interpreted as "little mouse." Linne would have known this and, given his sense of humor, may have intended the ironic double meaning.
Bangiomorpha Butterfield (red alga) Named after the modern red alga Bangia, which was named for Niels Hofman Bang. Coincidentally apropos of a slang meaning of "bang", Bangiomorpha from 1,200 million years ago was the first known sexually reproducing organism.
Bowdleria punctata Quoy & Gaimard, 1830 (fernbird) Named after Dr. Richard Bowdler Sharpe. The "punctata" is said to refer to spots on the bird's breast, but it likely also references the second part of Bowdler Sharpes's name.
Dearc sgiathanach Jagielska et al. 2022 (Jurassic pterosaur) meaning both "winged reptile" and "reptile from Skye" (in Scottish Gaelic), the Gaelic name for the island of Skye being An t-Eilean Sgitheanach. The pterosaur's binomial, incidentally, is pronounced jark ski-an-ach.
Diodorus scytobrachion Kammerer et al., 2012 (Triassic dinosauriform) The fossils were found in Morocco. Diodorus was legendary king of the Berbers and son of the founder of Tangier; Diodorus Siculus was a first-century Greek historian who wrote about North Africa. "Scytobrachion" means "leathery arm" and refers to a presumed character of the beast and to Dionysius Scytobrachion, a classical mythographer who chronicled the mythical history of North Africa.
Esemephe Steiner, 1980 (darkling beetle) See Interesting Stories.
Grouvellinus quest Freitag et al., 2018 (riffle beetle) "Quest" refers both to the intensive search for riffle beetles by citizen scientists, and to the Dutch popular science magazine QUEST. [ZooKeys 754:1]
Harryplax severus Mendoza & Ng, 2017 (crab) The genus is named primarily in honor of field collector Harry T. Conley, who collected this species among others, but is also an allusion to Harry Potter for Conley's seemingly magical collecting talent. (The "-plax" suffix means "flat.") The specific epithet is Latin for harsh or rough, referring to the laborious collection process; it also refers to Severus Snape of the Harry Potter series for his ability to keep important secrets, just like the crab had eluded discovery for so long.
Hippocampus nalu Short et al. 2020 (seahorse) Named after its discoverer Savannah Nalu Olivier; also, in Xhosa and Zulu, nalu means "here it is", alluding to the seahorse's discovery; also, in Hawaiian, the word refers to ocean waves, whose surge the seahorse was observed moving in.
Hypogena triceratops Steiner, 2005 (tenebrionid beetle) As with the dinosaur, "triceratops" means "three-horned face." The beetle itself has three horns, plus it is named in honor of tenebrionid specialist Charles A. Triplehorn. [Annales Zoologici 55: 572.]
Koolasuchus Warren et al., 1997 (Cretaceous amphibian) Named for paleontologist Lesley Kool, with a pun on cold climate in which it lived.
Kora corallina Simone, 2012 (land snail) "The generic epithet refers to the aperture form, looking like a crown in spire, a contraction of the Latin word Corona = crown, corpse, with first letter changed to K to avoid homonymy. [...] The specific epithet refers to the outline of the shell, resembling a coral polyp, from the Latin corallium. The name is also a regard to Cora Coralina, the pseudonym of Ana Lins dos Guimarães Peixoto Bretas (1889‑1985), a famous Brazilian poet novelist." [Pap. Avulsos Zool. 52]
Laonastes Jenkins et al., 2005 (Laotian rock rat) From Greek nastes, "inhabitant", and "laos", of stone; referring also to the country where it was found.
Litomylus alphamon Van Valen, 1978 (Paleocene mammal) "Sindarin (Elvish) alph, swan, and amon, hill. Reference is to the locality [Swan Hill], with allusion also to Alph, the sacred river of Xanadu; Amon, usually the Chief Egyptian god; alpha, the letter; and Greek monos, single." Now a synonym of Litocherus lacunatus Gazin 1956.
Lobetelson Schram, 2006 (Carboniferous crustacean). The name refers to "the lobate form of the uropodal rami." It is also an anagram of the closely related Belotelson. [Zoosystema 28:282]
Musa L. (banana) Linnaeus wrote that he wanted this one word to do the work of three. First, it is named after the Arabic word for banana, muz or muez, acknowledging the role of Muslem cultures in popularizing the fruit. Second, it honors Antonio Musa, doctor to Roman emperor Augustus. Third, it honors the nine Muses.
Peckena Gnaspini 1996 (leiodid beetle). Named after Dr. Stewart B. Peck, and pronounced in the same way as "pequena," Portuguese for "small," referring to its small size.
Prognathodon saturator Dortangs et al., 2002 (Upper Cretaceous mosasaur) Saturator means "he who gives satisfaction," referring both to the sharks which tore the corpse to shreds and to the amateur collector who discovered the remains. [Neth. J. Geosci. 81: 1]
Thalia L. (tropical plant, Marantaceae) Named after Johannes Thal (1542-1583), an herbalist who wrote a flora of the Harz Mountains, but also honoring Thalia, one of the Graces.
Tlalocohyla celeste Varela-Soto et al. 2022 (frog) Named after the color of its vocal sac and groin area ("celeste" is Spanish for sky blue) and for the Río Celeste, which feeds the frog's wetlands.
Varanus amnhophilis Conrad et al., 2012 (Miocene Greek monitor lizard) From Greek amnos and -philis, meaning "lover of lamb", alluding to large monitor lizard's habit of taking mammalian prey. Also, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is the specimen's repository. [PLoS ONE 7(8)]

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