Field of Science

Honorific immortality

One way to achieve a certain degree of name immortality is to have an organism named after you. Generic names or specific epithets (2nd word of binomial species name) that are constructed upon someone's name are called honorifics. Botany is just littered with honorifics, some of which are famous (Linnea, Darwinia) and others which are rather obscure (Magnolia, Poinsettia, Nicotiana). And then sometimes honorifics are combined with a taxonomist's idea of humor like a new fungal species, in this case a sort of puffball (a gasteroid bolete) that was named Spongiforma squarepantsii. Of course this isn't the first species named after a cast member of that cartoon, there's a phytoplankton, as drawn, a stramenopile, named Shelton J. Plankton, but maybe that isn't an official species name. This is how to have fun with taxonomy.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

The ultimate for this is the names for genes, mutants, and gene products in drosophila... 'Sonic Hedgehog,' 'I'm not dead yet' (a reference to Monty Python), 'Cheap Date' and so on... I heard an interview once with a very boring medical doctor who didn't like the funny names, because it turns out humans have homologs of these genes, so the names go with them. And he didn't relish the idea of telling a patient with a genetic disease that it was caused by a mutation in 'Sonic Hedgehog'