These are the silliest scientific names for real living things

Scientists are people and people are wonderfully weird

Taxonomy. You’re already falling asleep aren’t you? It’s useful to biologists but not everyone is that interested in memorising long Latin names. Fortunately taxonomy can be funny, silly, creative, and a bit daft.

BiologistsĀ give species binomial names where the first word is the genus the species belongs to and the second is the species name. We are Homo sapiens because we are theĀ sapiensĀ species that belongs in theĀ Homo genus along withĀ Homo neaderthalensis, Homo erectus, andĀ Homo floresiensis (a species we wrote about recently).Ā Here are some of our favourite scientific names forĀ living things.

Ba humbugi

This endangered snail species is found in forests ofĀ Viti Levu, Fiji. It was named by Solem in 1983 afterĀ Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Image: Comedy Central

Stephen Colbert actually has a spider named after him:Ā Aptostichus stephencolberti.

Spongiforma squarepantsii

This species isn’t actually a sponge, but a fungus of theĀ Boletaceae family. The spongelike bodies of the species inspired the discovers to name it after everyone’s favourite pineapple-dwelling creature under the sea.

Image: Nickelodeon via Tumblr/Hateskaters

Evenhuis’ terrible puns

A biologist named Evenhuis had a brilliant/awful track record of using scientific classification to create puns. His best workĀ was the classification of several flies in 2002 under theĀ Pieza genus includingĀ Pieza rhea andĀ Pieza pi. For Evenhuis, you could say naming species was aĀ Pieza kake. We’re not sorry. Scientists love pizza.

The HeerzĀ genus

Evenhuis isn’t alone when it comes to using scientific classification for puns. A worthy nod goes toĀ Marsh who in 1993 named some fliesĀ Heerz lukenatchaĀ andĀ Heerz tooya. Bravo, Marsh! Here’s to you!

Image: Giphy.com/Warner Bros.

Aha ha

Arnold Menke named a waspĀ Aha ha in 1977 after receiving a package of insect specimens and saying “aha!” out loud. He liked the name so much he even used it on his car’s registration plate. We read it as a laugh though.

Image: Giphy/Simpsons World

The AgraĀ genus

Agra is a huge genus of beetles known as elegant canopy beetles. One scientist, Terry Erwin, has named almost half of the 500 described species and has used this opportunity to be as creative as possible. Highlights from the genus includeĀ Agra vation,Ā Agra phobia, andĀ Agra cadabra.

Erwin also used the opportunity to do what many biologists do when naming species: honouring celebrities. There’s a beetle in this genus namedĀ AgraĀ schwarzeneggeriĀ that’s bound to make Arnie smile.

Image: Giphy/Tristar Pictures

TheĀ AgathidiumĀ genus

TheĀ Agathidium genus of slime-mold beetles has some interestingly named species thanks toĀ Kelly Miller and Quentin Wheeler. They chose to name the beetles with a common theme. I wonder if you can recognise a pattern? The species includeĀ Agathidium bushi for the former US President;Ā Agathidium cheneyi for the former US Vice President; andĀ Agathidium rumsfeld for the former USĀ Secretary of Defense and games developer.

Bush. Cheney. Rumsfeld. Do you see a recurring theme? If so it might not surprise you to know that theĀ fourth beetle was namedĀ Agathidium vaderi after Darth Vader, former Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces.

Image: Direct TV

Sci-fi references

The sci-fi references in scientific classification don’t stop withĀ Agathidium vaderi.Ā Star Wars features prominently in taxonomy with an entire beetle genus of mites namedĀ Darthvaderum and a wasp namedĀ Polemistus chewbacca. The real hoopy froods out there will be happy to know that there’s a fish namedĀ Bidenichthys beeblebroxi and a fungus moth named Erechthias beeblebroxi after the Ex-Galactic President from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s even a fossil fish calledĀ Fiordichthys slartibartfasti. Get it? Fjords? You massive nerds.

Image: Giphy/Buena Vista Pictures

Special mentions

Some of our favourite names for celebs includeĀ Aptostichus angelinajolieae for Angelina Jolie;Ā Preseucoila imallshookupisĀ for Elvis Presley; andĀ Scaptia beyonceĀ for BeyoncĆ©. Works of art have been appreciated too including our favouritesĀ Apopyllus now and Draculoides bramstokeri.

Taxonomy is a human endeavour. For better or worse, this means there’s plenty of scope for creativity and silliness. Scientific classification doesn’t have to be boring.


Main image Ā© iStock/imv