Aquatic scientific names in the news …

The coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

A sudden change in the colour of the Bosphorus Strait has been reported from Istanbul, Turkey. The usually blue waters of the Bosphorus have been transformed to a milky turquoise since the weekend reportedly alarming some residents. This colour change is the result of a surge in a species of plankton across the Black Sea. The species responsible is Emiliania huxleyi (sometimes referred to as Ehux), a type of phytoplankton known as a coccolithophore and the most abundant and widespread of coccolithophore species.

Nasa describes the phytoplankton bloom as being an annual occurrence driven by a seasonal increase in reflectivity of the Black Sea, with peak brightness occurring in June, and that it’s consistent with recent years, although this manifestation would appear to be the brightest of the past five years.

Mosaic satellite image of the phytoplankton bloom in the Black Sea. Image: NASA

Emiliania huxleyi  is named after Thomas Huxley and Cesare Emiliani, who were the first to examine sea-bottom sediment and discover the coccoliths within it. Emiliania huxleyi is plated with white calcium carbonate coccoliths and, when present in large numbers, gives the water a milky sheen, changing its colour.

Emiliania huxleyi. Image: PEACE

Coccolithophore – any of the many minute, mostly marine, planktonic organisms with brown chromatophores and complex calcareous shells. Coccoliths are the individual plates of calcium carbonate formed by coccolithophores, single-celled algae such as Emiliania huxleyi, which are arranged around them in a coccosphere. The name was coined in 1868 by Thomas Huxley to describe the minute round or oval disk-like organic bodies found in deep-sea dredging, and also fossilized in chalk.



Coccolithophore – Greek, Cocco-, coccos (κοκκος), grain, seed: -litho-, lithos (λίθος) stone; -phore, phoros (φορος), bearing.

Emiliania huxleyi (Lohmann) W.W.Hay & H.P.Mohler, 1967

Emiliania – Latinized surname. Honouring Italian-American geologist and micropaleontologist Cesare Emiliani, (1922 – 1995), the founder of paleoceanography.

huxleyi – Latinized surname. Honouring English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, (1825 – 1895), popularly known as Darwin’s Bulldog for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Invasive aquatic species

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

29th March.
Invasive Species Week

As 27 March – 2 April is Invasive Species Week 2017 in the UK I thought I’d take a look at the etymology of a few of the more important aquatic invasive species.

Invasive species week is an initiative of the Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS) and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with the aim of raising awareness about invasive species in the UK.
Among the invasive species listed on the NNNS website there are 39 aquatic, semi-aquatic, or aquatic associated species, these range from fairly large mammals such as the Chinese Water Deer and American Mink, through a number of aquatic associated birds, various amphibians, numerous aquatic plants and seaweeds, and invertebrates including crustacea and molluscs

Non-native species are plant or animal species that are found outside of their natural past or present distribution (introduced species). The term ‘non-native species’ is the equivalent of ‘alien species’ as used by the Convention on Biological Diversity. Generally speaking It refers to species and subspecies introduced through human action, “hitchhiking”, or other means.
An invasive non-native species is any non-native animal or plant that has the ability or potential to spread to a degree that might cause damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live, or reduce biodiversity.

At the time of writing there seems to be a disappointingly poor coverage of this story by the media with only the Guardian reporting on it in any depth.

It’s difficult to tell from the NNSS website which species are of most concern, so for this exercise I’ve chosen to use the species listed under the NNSS species alerts issued as part of the GB rapid response protocol. All these species have been found in the UK and are of obvious concern.

Water Primrose – Ludwigia grandiflora

An invasive non-native plant from South America which has become a serious pest in other countries, including France, where it smothers water bodies reducing the numbers of native species and potentially increasing the risk of flooding.

Ludwigia – Eponym, honouring Christian Gottlieb Ludwig (1709-1773); genus named by Carl Linnaeus
grandiflora – Latin, grandi-, grandis, large, great; -flora, the goddess of flowers; grandiflora, with large flowers

Quagga Mussel – Dreissena rostriformis bugensis

A highly invasive non-native freshwater mussel from the Ponto-Caspian region, very similar to Zebra Mussel. It can significantly alter whole ecosystems by filtering out large quantities of nutrients and is also a serious biofouling risk blocking pipes smothering boat hulls and other structures.

Dreissena bugensis (Andrusov, 1897)
Dreissena – Eponym, honouring M. Driessens, a pharmacist at Mazeyk, from whom Van Beneden, had received a consignment of live molluscs
bugensis – etymology unknown, -ensis, indicates name is a toponym

“Killer shrimps” – D. haemobaphes and D. villosus

Invasive non-native freshwater gammarid crustaceans that have spread from the Ponto-Caspian Region of Eastern Europe. They are both voracious predators that kill a range of native species, including young fish, and can significantly alter ecosystems.

Dikerogammarus villosus (Sowinsky, 1894)

Dikerogammarus, – Greek, Di-, di (δι), two; -kero-, keras, horn; -gammarus, kammaros (καμμαρος), lobster
villosus, Latin, hairy, shaggy, rough

Dikerogammarus haemobaphes (Eichwald, 1841)

(No image available)

Dikerogammarus, – Greek, Di-, di (δι), two; -kero-, keras, horn; -gammarus, kammaros (καμμαρος), lobster
haemobaphes, -Greek, haemo-, haima (αιμα), blood-red; -baphes (βαφη), a dipping in dye, dyeing, dye

Carpet Sea-squirt – Didemnum vexillum (Kott, 2002)

Thought to be originally from Japan, it has become a pest in other countries by smothering native species and interfering with fishing, aquaculture and other activities.  It has recently been found in some marinas in England and Wales and there are strong concerns that it will spread more widely.

Didemnum, Greek, Di-, di (δι), two; -demnum (δεμνιον), bedstead, mattress, bed, bedding;
vexillum, Latin, a military ensign, standard, banner, flag.

Sightings of any of these species should be reported through either the appropriate reporting page on the NNSS website or by email with a photograph and location details to:

All images courtesy of

Fishing spider

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Fishing spider

The discovery of a new species of Fishing spider was announced at the ninth annual World Science Festival, Brisbane, Australia (9-13 March 2016).

Fishing spiders are semi-aquatic spiders that hunt by waiting at the edge of a pool or stream, resting six of their eight legs on the surface of the water, waiting for vibrations announcing the presence of their prey, a procedure that relies on the waves created from something landing on the water to indicate movement. Along with insects their prey can include fish, tadpoles, and even cane toads; when they detect the ripples from prey, they run across the surface to it and subdue it using their claw-tipped forelegs, then dive under the water and carry it back to shore to eat.

fishing spiderBrian Greene with Dolomedes briangreenei (image: Chris Hyde)

The newly discovered spider is native to freshwater streams around Brisbane. There are around 100 species of spider in the genus Dolomedes, different species can be found around the world in North America, Europe, and New Zealand as well as Australia, and with the exception of one tree-dwelling species they all employ the same method of hunting with the water surface serving the same function as a web does for other spiders.

Dolomedes briangreenei (Raven, 2016)


Dolomedes  – Greek, dolomhdhs (δολομηδης), wily, crafty; alluding to its method of hunting for prey..

briangreenei  – Latinized name. Honouring Brian Greene, a leading theoretical physicist and co-founder of the World Science Festival, who said, “With the announcement last month of humankind’s first detection of gravitational waves, ripples on the surface of space and time, I am particularly honored to be so closely associated with a spider that has its own deep affinity for waves.”



Additions to the Lexicon …

New category added to the Lexicon – Eponyms.

An eponym, or eponymous epithet, is where a species is named after a person, usually a fellow scientist, a colleague, a friend, a family member, or a dignitary.

This new category is a work in progress and is initially concentrating on those persons featured in the “ This Day in History …” sidebar.

If you have a question about an epynomic scientific name pertaining to any species of aquatic animal, please contact Aquatical Latin via and we’ll do our best answer your query.