Scientific names hail from a variety of sources, with the realm of fiction providing hundreds of creative titles for various organisms over the years. Here are 11 of the most unusual.
1. Oedipina complex
A species of Costa Rican salamander named for Sophocles’ drama Oedipus rex and Sigmund Freud’s infamous psychoanalytic theory based thereon.
2. Iago garricki
A fish named in part after the notorious villain of Shakespeare’s Othello.
3. Bagheera kiplingi
Robert L. Curry
Amazingly, this Central American jumping spider named after Bagheera—a benevolent panther which helps guide young Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book—is the first predominantly-vegetarian spider known to science.
4. Han solo
The genus name, “Han,” was originally based on the Han nationality, China’s largest ethnic group. When the time came to assign a species name to this long-extinct trilobite, however, paleontologist Samuel Turvey claimed to have invoked George Lucas’ beloved nerf herder to win a dare put forth by his friends. College Humor lampoons the connection here.
5. Geragnostus waldorfstatleri
Han solo wasn’t the only trilobite to get a humorous name from Turvey. Feeling that the animal’s head resembled The Muppet Show’s Statler and Waldorf, Turvey officially dubbed it after the beloved hecklers.
6. Gojirasaurus quayi
“Gojira” is the original Japanese name for “Godzilla,” a name that’s rather appropriate for this 220-million-year-old predator which, at a length of nearly 18 feet, is the earliest-known large carnivorous dinosaur.
7. Gollum suluensis
This New Zealand shark is named for Gollum of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings. It is not, however, also named for George Takei’s Hikaru Sulu of the original Star Trek series, but rather a sea in the Philippines.
8. Spongiforma squarepantsii
You’d think that an animal named for Nickelodeon’s ever-popular Spongebob Squarepants would be an actual sponge. But Spongiforma squarepantsii is actually a type of mushroom discovered in 2010.
9. Sauroniops pachytholus
Because only the upper skull of this carnivorous dinosaur—including a single eye socket—was found, it was named after yet another Lord of the Rings villain: the fiery eye of Sauron.
10. Otocinclus batmani
The flared tail of this South American fish reminded ichthyologist Pablo Lehmann of Gotham City’s masked vigilante.
11. Tetragnatha quasimodo
A Hawaiian spider named for the title character of Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1992.
HONORABLE MENTION: Strigiphilus garylarsoni
The Far Side creator Gary Larson certainly isn’t a figment of somebody’s imagination, but the parasitic louse named in his honor is worthy of a brief aside. A few years after learning of the then-new species of blood-sucking insect, Larson wrote “I considered this an extreme honor … Besides, I knew that nobody was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me.”