11 Naughty-Sounding Scientific Names (and What They Really Mean)

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New Guinea Birds

It's a big world of flora and fauna out there, and scientists need to classify and label it. They've come up with a lot of terms that are humorous on purpose (stupidogobius, ytu brutus, inglorious mediocris, Roberthoffstetteria nationalgeographica, etc., etc.) but there are a few that are perfectly innocent Latin or Greekisms that just happen to sound like something else.

Are you ready to get immature? Here are 11 naughty-sounding scientific names, and what they really mean.

1. TURDUS MAXIMUS

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Turdus is Latin for the bird we call a thrush. Maximus means biggest or greatest. This turdus maximus is a beauty, don't you think?

2. TURDUS MIGRATORIUS

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Behold the American Robin, a migratory bird. A turdus who gets around.

3. COLON ASPERATUM

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The Colon genus of beetles originally got its name from kolon, the Greek word for limb or joint, and while asperatum brings to mind inhaling, it actually means roughened, from the Latin asper, for rough. Just a rough joint here. No reason to giggle.

4. BUGERANUS

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Otherwise known as the Wattled Crane, Bugeranus gets its name from the Greek bous (ox), and geranus (crane). It gets its disapproving facial expression from being called a bugeranus.

5. FARTULUM

Catalog of Organisms 

This type of snail was named for its cylindrical shell that looks like a tiny sausage. It comes from Latin farcire, to stuff. A fartum is a stuffed thing, and a fartulum is a little stuffed thing, AKA a tiny sausage. It would make an excellent science fair project topic for a second grader.

6. ARSES INSULARIS

New Guinea Birds

The Ochre-collared Monarch was named for Arses, the ancient King of Persia. It lives in the islands (insulae in Latin) of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Isn't it regal-looking? A real royal arses.

7. TEXANANUS AREOLATUS

Bug Guide

In Latin, an areola was a small open space, like a garden or courtyard. In botany, "areolatus" is used to describe patterns of small clearings or spots. The anus suffix in Latin makes an adjective out of a place. If you're from Rome, you're Romanus. If you're from Texas, like this spotted leafcutter, you are Texananus.

8. BOTRYOTINIA FUCKELIANA

Plantwise

The Botryotinia part of this fungus name comes from botrus, the ancient Greek for a cluster of grapes. The other part honors famous German mycologist Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel.

9. PINUS RIGIDA

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This is a very sturdy pine tree. There are many of this variety in New Jersey.

10. DORCUS TITANUS

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We call this the Giant Stag Beetle because it looks like it has horns. Dorcus is Latin for antelope. This dorcus is not to be messed with.

11. POOSPIZA HYPOCHONDRIA

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The Rufous-sided Warbling Finch may have some worries about its health (it is a threatened species), but hypochondria comes from the Greek for "under the ribs," where this beauty has a lovely red marking. The poospiza breaks down not as poos-piza, but as poo-spiza, spiza being ancient Greek for finch. The poo is from poa, meaning grass.

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February 10, 2014 - 9:44pm
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