Originally posted April 29, 2009

Most scientific names for genes or species are downright boring.  Worst of all, a lot of the names aren’t just boring, but they’re also uninformative!  For example, countless species are named after scientists.  Popular last names result in a slew of similarly boring species names, including Lycium andersonii, Inonotus andersonii, Hyla andersonii, Micrognathus andersonii, Delphinium andersonii, etc.

Fortunately, every once and awhile, a scientist with a sense of humor gets the opportunity to name a gene, protein, species, etc.

Here are a few of my all-time favorite scientific names:

Gene names:

1)  Supervillin (SVL): A human gene

2) Chefruitflyheadap date: A gene found in fruit flies which, when mutated, makes them especially sensitive to alcohol

3) Ken and Barbie: A gene which in fruit flies which, when mutated, causes individuals of both sex to lack external genitalia.callipyge

4) Callipyge: Sheep possessing mutated versions of this gene have gigantic backsides (callipygian means “having well-shaped buttocks”).

A fun site with other clever gene names can be found here.

Species names:


1) Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi:  Three slime-mold beetles named after members of the previous administration.  I don’t know if the scientists who named these slime-mold beetles where pro-Bush ornot, but the biology department that I was housed in when the names were announced was mainly anti-Bush and got a kick out of it.

2) Aha ha: A species of Australian wasp.

3) Arthurdactylus conandoylei: A long extinct pterosaur.  Named in honor of Arthur Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes guy)

I’m about to begin studying the California killifish (Fundulus parvipinnis).  I’m holding out hope that I’ll find a genetically distinct population and have the opportunity to name the subspecies.  If I do, I’m definitely naming if Fundulus schmundulus.

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