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GONZOApril 19th, 2009, 10:55 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I know that some people think that messing around with taxonomy and scientific nomenclature is dry and boring, but I thought I'd share some scientific names that belie that notion. Taxonomists do have a sense of humor; sometimes they are downright silly (or worse). Of course, as sober scientists, they have to disguise the silliness with fancy Latin-sounding names, but don't let that fool you. You might need to try pronouncing a few of these names aloud before you get the joke, but they are all "legitimate" scientific epithets:


Dicotendripes thanatogratus--I mentioned this one in a recent midge ID; it was named for the Grateful Dead.


Darthus vadorus--this one was also mentioned before on this site. Konchu's buddies, Webb and McCafferty, gave this name to a new species of heptageniid mayfly nymph found in Borneo (presumably on the "darkside" of some rock).


Rhyacophila tralala--I imagine Schmid was skipping down the lane when he named this one, otherwise I suspect he would have named it "blablablah."


Beliops--sounds like these might be the same fish that spent most of their time floating upside down in my aquarium when I was a kid. If so, they are a foul-smelling breed and about as entertaining as watching paint dry.

Lepidotrigla jimjoebob--this one sounds like it was found in a fishbowl on The Waltons.

Stupidogobius--a stupid goby, I presume. Maybe the discoverer asked what its name was, but it didn't answer....

Soranus--perhaps spicy food doesn't agree with this fish, or....

Catostomus--there's nothing funny about this genus name for suckers, but I threw it in because Don Zahner, the original editor of Fly Fisherman, once called someone "a male Catostomus" in the pages of that magazine. To appreciate the insult, remember that some terms for fish gender are the same as for chickens or pheasants.


Lalapa lusa--I assume this is a big wasp.

Verae peculya--I assume this is an unusual wasp.

Pison eyvae and Pison eu--the first name would seem to suggest a pronunciation like "name yer pison, pardner," but the second name suggests a different pronunciation. I'm not sure which is correct.

Heerz lukenatcha and Heerz tooya--apparently the wasp guys like to raise a glass or two.


Chrysops balzaphire--one of those damn deerflies...'nuff said!

Tabanus rizonshine--a horsefly that may have been the source of a rude awakening. If so, Philip showed admirable restraint in not smashing it into an unidentifiable blob of insect goo. That's "taking one for the team" in the name of science.

This--the nominator, McAlpine, supposedly had a picture of this fly on his office door bearing the caption "Look at This!"

Moths and Butterflies

Cephise nuspecz--yes, that's right, a "new species" of Cephise (skipper butterflies).

Eubetia bigaulee--a new moth? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha, by golly!"

Dyaria--this moth genus was named for Dyar. Presumably, the pun was unintentional.

Orgia nova--apparently moth people have their own way of celebrating when they make a new discovery.


Agra vation and Agra phobia--Erwin may have been getting tired of looking at beetles when he named these.

Cyclocephalia nodanotherwon--Radcliffe was definitely getting tired of looking at scarab beetles.

Dorcus titanus--funny in the modern context, but I assume this was just a conventional name when Boisduval proposed it in 1835.

Mixed Bag

Chaos chaos--the name given to a protozoan by Linne (Linneaus), which shows how long this scientific tomfoolery has been going on.

Ittibittium--a great name for molluscs that are smaller than those in the genus Bittium.

Wakiewakie--eggsanbakie? The name for an Oligo-Miocene rat kangaroo that had been sleeping for a very long time.

Notnops, Taintnops, and Tisentnops--just to be clear, these spiders are no longer in the genus Nops.

Pinus rigida and Pinus flexilis--OK, we all giggled when we heard the genus name for pine trees back in Biology class, but I don't recall the mention of these species. I wonder why?

Labia minor--supposedly the name of an earwig, but I seem to remember something else with a name like this....what was it?....oh, yeah...nevermind.

Dolichuranus--if you're a dog, this suggestion usually isn't necessary, but as the name for a Triassic therapsid, I'm not sure what to make of it.

Ochisme, Dolichisme, Florichisme, Marichisme, Peggichisme, and Polychisme--to appreciate this notorious group of names for Hemiptera, pronounce the "ch" like "k" and you'll wonder if Kirkaldy was a philanderer or just someone who had spent way too long in the company of insects.

Carmenelectra shechisme--A recent name for a fossil mythicomyiid found in Dominican amber. Evenhuis obviously knows about Kirkaldy and may have similar issues.

Gummilumpus--what else would you call an extinct wasp found in amber?

If you'd like to read more of these taxonomic gems (without my unsolicited commentary), Mark Issak keeps a great collection of them here:
DOSApril 20th, 2009, 1:03 am
Buffalo, NY

Posts: 64
made me smile :)
Andrew Nisbet
CaseyPApril 20th, 2009, 10:11 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
thank you! just what i needed on this rainy day--which we here in the NE also need.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
GONZOApril 20th, 2009, 11:47 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Drew and Casey,

Some of these names remind me of watching Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons as a kid. They would do an animated freeze-frame and show a "scientific" name for RR (like Batoutahelius or Tid-bittius velocitus) or for WEC (like Famishius vulgaris ingeniusi or Caninus nervous rex). Those old cartoons were clever on a number of levels, just like the old Rocky and Bullwinkle gags. A recent (2003) RR/WEC cartoon used the actual scientific names (Geococcyx californianus for the roadrunner and Canis latrans for the coyote). I guess they realized that those names could be amusing in their own way. I often wonder about the influence of watching cartoons.... ;)
FalsiflyApril 20th, 2009, 1:00 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
Great Gonzo,
You never cease to amaze me. Only you could take us from Fun with Science to cartoons. Now that you have revealed the cartoons you watched as a kid, you have answered the question for me.
I often wonder about the influence of watching cartoons.... ;)

Now I know!
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
GONZOApril 20th, 2009, 1:14 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
I think you're probably right, Falsifly. I also used to get a big kick out of watching the coyote disappear into that little puff of dust at the bottom of the canyon. I'm not sure what influence that might have had, except that I do have to stifle a laugh when someone really "augers one in" while skiing.
TroutnutApril 20th, 2009, 3:42 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
Great collection! I think Ittibittium is my favorite.

Maybe Coyote is the reason you got into skiing in the first place. Don't you kind of get the feeling, when you're dangling high above the ground on a flimsy ski lift, that it would be best not to crack open a book entitled Gravity?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
PatcrisciApril 21st, 2009, 5:55 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Gonzo, this is funny and very clever ...and yes, I think those of us who grew up with TV and were raised on cartoons like Rocky & Bullwinkle, Sherman & Peabody, and my favorite: Fractured Fairy Tales, have a great appreciation for this sort of humor. It is at once clever word play and a good-natured derision of formal scientific/latin taxonomy. Wasn't there a cartoon character that was based on a fly? I can't remember was it "Stony" or "Maybelle" or am I dreaming?
Pat Crisci
GONZOApril 22nd, 2009, 6:38 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

I'm not sure; the only cartoon bugs I can recall are Fearless Fly and Atom Ant, and they weren't in the same league as the classic cartoons you mention. The names remind me of Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel. Archy was a cockroach and a self-styled "vers libre" poet, and Mehitabel was an alley cat in every sense of that characterization. Might that be it?


I'm sure that Wile E. Coyote used skis in one of his cockamamie schemes, probably in conjunction with a big rocket strapped to his back. There is appropriate poignancy in the allegory: Despite the cleverness of our plans and the ingenious contrivances that we construct from the universal supplies of the Acme Manufacturing Co., the thing we chase is ultimately too fleet to grasp, and we end up in the inevitable puff of dust at the bottom of the canyon. :)
FalsiflyApril 22nd, 2009, 7:08 am
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
Despite the cleverness of our plans and the ingenious contrivances that we construct from the universal supplies of the Acme Manufacturing Co., the thing we chase is ultimately too fleet to grasp, and we end up in the inevitable puff of dust at the bottom of the canyon. :)

But continued failure should never deter pursuit.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
GONZOApril 22nd, 2009, 7:28 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
CharlieSawdApril 22nd, 2009, 11:12 am
St. Michael, Minnesota

Posts: 26
Thanks Jason!
Charlie Sawdey
PatcrisciApril 22nd, 2009, 11:46 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Gonzo, i know archy & mehitabel... celebrated verse from the early 20th century... The story of Archy & Mehitabel was made into a song and recorded by Rosalie Sorrels, the Idaho folksinger and matriarch of traditional folk music , on her album "Always a Lady." There was a cartoon called Krazy Kat which I think was loosely styled after Mehitabel. Sorry for getting off topic :)
Pat Crisci

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