Geographical epithets

Geographical epithets, also known as toponyms, may indicate the general area where a species may be found, the site of its first discovery, or the location where the type specimen was collected but they do not necessarily reflect its geographical distribution. The name is ‘Latinized’ giving it the same gender, case, and tense as the Genus name. These can be often be identified by the inclusion in name of a suffix such as -anus, (-a, -um), meaning of or pertaining to, -icus with the sense of belonging to, and particularly -ensis, meaning belong to or originating in – indicating origin or place.

There are misleading examples of names ending in ensis that are actually eponyms where the suffix is used with the meaning of belonging to (a person).

Toponyms are not exclusive, more than one species can be found with the same specific name. Be aware that place names change over time and that many older descriptions feature archaic names that may no longer be readily recognised, for example Zeylon is an older form of Ceylon, a country now referred to as Sri Lanka. Reference to the original description may be necessary to differentiate geographical names from other descriptive terms, and particularly from eponyms as place names are often named in honour of an individual such as as scientist or explorer.

Generally its the specific name, the second part of the species name, that refers to geographical location but genus names conveying this information, while uncommon, are not unknown.

The table below is not extensive, it contains geographical epithets from my recent research into the etymology of reef aquarium fishes, and is intended to serve as an example of how these names are formed.


Scientific name

Common name



Pseudochromis aldabraensis Bauchot-Boutin, 1958

Orange dottyback

Of, or from, Aldabra, Seychelles


Vanderhorstia ambanoro (Fourmanoir, 1957)

Ambanoro prawn-goby

Ambanoro Bay, Nosy Be, Madagascar

amboinensisChromis amboinensis (Bleeker, 1871) Ambon chromisAmbon or Amboina, Maluku Islands, Indonesia.
antillarumChilomycterus antillarum Jordan & Rutter, 1897Web burrfishOf, or from, the Antilles


Centropyge argi Woods & Kanazawa, 1951

Cherubfish or Pygmy angel

Argus Bank, off Bermuda


Stethojulis bandanensis (Bleeker, 1851)

Red shoulder wrasse

Of, or from, Banda; the Banda Islands or Banda Sea Indonesia


Ecsenius bandanus Springer, 1971       

Banda comb-tooth

Of, or from, Banda; the Banda Islands or Banda Sea Indonesia


Platax batavianus Cuvier, 1831

Humpback batfish

Of, or from, Batavia, old name for Jakarta,


Coris batuensis (Bleeker, 1856)

Batu coris

Of, or from, the Batu Islands, off Sumatra


Holacanthus bermudensis Goode, 1876

Blue angelfish

Of, or from, the Bermuda Islands


Gramma brasiliensis Sazima, Gasparini & Mouran, 1998

Brazilian basslet

Of, or from, Brazil

buroensisGymnothorax buroensis (Bleeker, 1857)Vagrant morayOf, or from, the island of Buru, Maluku Islands, Indonesia


Oxycheilinus celebicus (Bleeker, 1853)

Celebes wrasse.

Of the island of Sulawesi, formerly Celebes, Indonesia or the Celebes sea


Holacanthus clarionensis Gilbert, 1890

Clarion angelfish

Of, or from, Isla Clarión, Mexico


Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis Randall, 1955

Chevron tang

Of, or from, Hawaii


Bodianus izuensis Araga & Yoshino, 1975

Striped pigfish

Izu Peninsula and Izu Oceanic Park, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan


Thalassoma lucasanum (Gill, 1862)

Cortez rainbow wrasse

Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, formerly, Cape St. Lucas, Lower California


Pseudanthias luzonensis (Katayama & Masuda, 1983

Yellowlined Fairy Basslet

Of, or from, Luzon island, Philippines.

manilensisArothron manilensis (Marion de Procé, 1822)Narrow-lined pufferOf, or from, Manila


Xyrichtys martinicensis Valenciennes, 1840

Rosy razorfish

Of, or from, Martinique


Mulloidichthys martinicus (Cuvier, 1829)

Yellow goatfish

Of, or from, Martinique


Pseudodax moluccanus (Valenciennes, 1840)

Chiseltooth wrasse

Of, or from, the Maluku Islands (also known as the Molucca Islands), an Indonesian archipelago


Macropharyngodon negrosensis Herre, 1932

Yellowspotted wrasse

Of, or from, Negros, one of the Visayan Islands in the Philippines


Anampses neoguinaicus Bleeker, 1878

New Guinea wrasse

Of, or from, New Guinea

novaehollandiaeOgilbyina novaehollandiae (Steindachner, 1879)Multicolored dottybackLatinized form of New Holland, old name for Australia


Gobiodon okinawae Sawada, Arai & Abe, 1972

Okinawa goby

Of, or from, Okinawa


Meiacanthus oualanensis (Günther, 1880)

Canary fangblenny

Of, or from, Ovalau Island, Fiji


Cephalopholis panamensis (Steindachner, 1876)

Pacific graysby

Of, or from, Panama


Canthigaster papua (Bleeker, 1848)

Papuan toby

Papua New Guinea


Scorpaenopsis papuensis (Cuvier, 1829)

Papuan scorpionfish

Of, or from, Papua New Guinea


Chaetodon pelewensis Kner, 1868

Sunset butterflyfish

Of, or from, the Pelew Islands; now known as the Republic of Palau


Amblycirrhitus pinos (Mowbray, 1927)

Redspotted hawkfish

After Isla de Pinos, the second largest Cuban island, now known as Isla de la Juventud

queenslandiaeOgilbyina queenslandiae (Saville-Kent, 1893)Queensland dottybackAfter Queensland, Australia


Alionematichthys riukiuensis (Aoyagi, 1954)

Bigeye cusk

Of, or from, the Ryukyu Islands, Japan


Cirrhilabrus solorensis Bleeker, 1853

Redhead Fairy Wrasse

Of, or from, Solor Island; Solor Archipelago, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia


Sebastapistes strongia (Cuvier, 1829)

Barchin scorpionfish

After the island of Oualan or Strong, in the Caroline Islands


Ctenochaetus tominiensis Randall, 1955

Tomini surgeonfish

Of, or from, the Gulf of Tomini, Sulawesi, Indonesia


Meiacanthus tongaensis Smith-Vaniz, 1987

 Tonga Fang Blenny

Of, or from, Tonga

tortugarumSerranus tortugarum Longley, 1935Chalk bassOf the Dry Tortugas, south of the Florida Keys


Tosana niwae Smith & Pope, 1906

Threadtail anthias

Tosa, one of the four provinces of Shikoku, Japan


Neoclinus toshimaensis Fukao, 1980

Japanese Fringehead

Of, or from, Toshima, Tanabe Bay, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan


Chaetodon ulietensis Cuvier, 1831

Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish

Of, or from, Ulieta, old name for Raiatea, the  Society Islands, French Polynesia


Abudefduf vaigiensis (Quoy & Gaimard, 1825)

Indo-Pacific sergeant.

Of, or from, Waigeo (or Waigiu), Raja Ampat archipelago, West Papua, Indonesia


Mulloidichthys vanicolensis (Valenciennes, 1831)

 Yellowfin goatfish

Of, or from, Vanikoro (also known as Vanikolo), Solomon Islands


Anisotremus virginicus (Linnaeus, 1758)


Of, or from, Virginia, USA


Halichoeres zeylonicus (Bennett, 1833)

Goldstripe wrasse

Of or from Zeylon, a spelling variation of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.