I have not fully recovered from the discovery that the proper Latin name of the western lowland gorilla is ‘Gorilla gorilla gorilla’. Here are 10 more, inspired by ‘The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names’ by John Wright, published this month by Bloomsbury.
- Agra katewinsletae A carabid beetle.
- Chaeropus ecaudatus Australian bandicoot. The name means pig-footed creature without a tail, but it has one. The specimen on which the name was based probably lost its tail to a predator.
- Aachenosaurus multidens Discovered in Aachen, Belgium, what were believed to be the teeth of a dinosaur proved to be pieces of petrified wood. Gerard Smets quit palaeontology in embarrassment.
- Scalopus aquaticus North American eastern mole. Scalopus means “digs with its feet”, but it is far from aquatic. Carl Linnaeus’s specimen was labelled as found in water. Presumably it had drowned.
- Heteropoda davidbowie Endangered spider. My own nomination.
- Paradisaea apoda Greater bird of paradise. Apoda means “no feet”. The birds were first described from skins sent to Europe, without the feet, and early naturalists assumed that they had none.
- Psephophorus terrypratchetti A fossil turtle – what else could it be?
- Albunea groeningi A pale yellow sand crab named after the Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
- Aha ha Arnold Menke, an Australian entomologist, exclaimed “Aha!” on opening a package from a colleague to find a new species of wasp. It is also a palindrome.
- Apopyllus now The generic name Apopyllus was established in the late 19th century, but was used for a spider in 1984, five years after Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now was released.
First published in the Independent on the 16th November 2014.