• Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a genus of moth native to Venezuela

Seemingly, there is a species of moth native to Venezuela, the taxonomic name of which is Eubetia bigauli—or “you betcha, by golly”.

For the uninitiated in the world of taxonomic nomenclatural wordplay (a minority, surely), here’s a quick brief.

Every species in the world has a two-part scientific name, in Latin, that allows it to be catalogued and categorized alongside all the other species to which it’s related. The first part of this two-part name is the genus; the second, more specific part, is the species.

That standard has been in place since the work of the naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s—and ever since then, scientists have been playing the system to their advantage in a game of taxonomic one-upmanship.

So Strategus longichomperus is the name of a beetle native to Honduras with notably long mandibles. A fossilized fly discovered in 1989 was given the name Dissup irae (“disappeary”) because its fossil was so difficult to spot. There’s a reclusive Fijian snail whose name is Ba humbugi, in a nod to Ebenezer Scrooge. And when University of Nebraska entomologist Brett C Ratcliffe found himself adding another species to a family of beetles that already contained several hundred individuals in 1992, he gave it the name Cyclocephala nodanotherwon.

#wordplay #Latin #animals #nature

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