NANFA-- fish name musings

Christopher Scharpf (
Tue, 25 Jan 2000 13:36:29 -0400

It's snowing like the dickens right now, giving me time to ruminate on one of my
favorite subjects -- fish nomenclature.

Many Latin names for fishes (and other taxa) are based on a unique or otherwsise
diagnostic feature.

Some fish are named after their location (state, country, river, watershed,

Many others are named in honor of distinguised colleagues, species' discoverers,
even spouses.

(Isn't there a fish that some scientist had the extreme arrogance to name after

Some fishes are named after what they're called by local or indigenous peoples
(Nocomis, for example, is an Indian word meaning chub).

However, some fishes have been named after things you wouldn't expect:

Chris Paulin, an ichtyologist from New Zealand, named two viviparous brotulas
(Bythidae) after characters in "A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy":
Bidenichthys beeblebroxi and Fiordichthys slaribartfasti.

I know of two fishes named after institutions: an eel (Apterichtus ansp) is
named for the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (ANSP); a rainbowfish
(Melanotaenia angfa) is named for NANFA's sister organization down under, the
Australia-New Guinea Fishes Association.

(Say, when's NANFA gonna get a fish named after it? Hey Dave Neely, how 'bout
throwing NANFA a bone and naming one of those undescribed sculpins "Cottus

Then I got to wondering; Have any fish been named after how they TASTE? I've
found two: the American shad (Alosa sapidissima, meaning "most delicious", and
the hickory shad (Alosa mediocris), menaing, basically, pretty mediorce tasting
when compared to the American shad. (Gee, talk about giving a fish an instant
inferiority complex!)

Does anybody know of any other fishes named after their epicurean qualities, or
lack thereof?

Does anybody have any other interesting or unique fish names, native or
otherwise, they'd like to share?

Waiting to go out and shovel,

Chris Scharpf

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