Monday, January 26, 2009

New species: how do you name them?

Peter Etnoyer's article in Deep-Sea News goes into the question of how scientists go about naming something new. I can't improve on his words (although I've edited here for brevity):

"The first option is to name the species after a characteristic. Grandis for big, elongata for long, etc. But this can get boring. There are way too many grandis in the world already. The second approach is to name the animal after a geographic region, hence pacifica, or boat or an expedition, hence Alvinocaris and Sibogagorgia. The third approach is partimonial, to name the species after a colleague, a donor, a girlfriend, or even an enemy (if its particuarly small or ugly)."

Dr. Jon McCosker (a famed shark expert) once wrote of a kind of tongue-in-cheek feud on this last point, where he he named an eel after an old professor and some other scientists named ugly critters mccoskeri.

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