Available now –  the first AQUATICAL•LATIN book:


Latin for Aquarists

An Etymology of Tropical Marine Reef Species.


T. M. Hayes

This first volume takes a look at the etymology, that’s the meaning behind the names, of around 950 species of the most common tropical marine fishes found in the aquatic hobby.

In addition to being an etymological dictionary of species and genus names AQUATICAL•LATIN also looks at subjects such as taxonomy, explains all about scientific names, and includes a handy guide to how these sometimes peculiar looking names should be pronounced.

The perfect gift for the curious aquarist, a useful tool for public aquariums, academics, and an indispensable addition to any aquarist’s library.

AQUATICAL•LATIN is a unique book, it is the only available general etymological work on fishes. Written by marine aquarium writer Tim Hayes. this is an extensively researched and well referenced work.

Product details:

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1545319227
  • ISBN-13: 978-1545319222
  • Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Price:
  • UK: £14.99
  • US: $19.15
  • EU and ROW: price subject to region, see appropriate Amazon site for details.

To purchase a copy of AQUATICAL•LATIN please go to the Amazon website

For more information about AQUATICAL•LATIN, the book, please contact AQUATICAL•LATIN via and we’ll do our best to answer your query.

Ember Goby

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

10th June 2017

The Ember Goby

This new species, subsequently described as Palatogobius incendius, was observed and collected over the course of several submersible dives off the coasts of Curaçao and Dominica between 2013 and 2016 as part of the DROP project (see below). During this same time lionfish predation of the then undescribed species of goby was also observed and recorded by the Curasub submersible. The description of both the new species and the lionfish predation can be found in “A new mesophotic goby, Palatogobius incendius (Teleostei: Gobiidae), and the first record of invasive lionfish preying on undescribed biodiversity” at PLOS One.

Palatogobius incendius, live in an aquarium. Image: Barry Brown.

Specimens of Palatogobius incendius, were collected by the Curasub using the two hydraulic arms, one equipped with a quinaldine-ejection system to anesthetize fishes, and the second equipped with a suction hose to collect immobilized individuals. Captured specimens were stored in a vented acrylic container for transport to the surface. The depth range from which these fishes were collected from is termed mesophotic, a term used to describe coral reefs growing from around 30 m down to around 150 m in both tropical and subtropical water.

Mesophotic, a modern scientific term derived from ancient Greek, Meso-, mesos (μεσος), middle; and phot- (φωτ-, φῶς), light; -ic, suffix meaning after the manner of, of the nature of, pertaining to, of.

Image: School of Palatogobius incendius at type locality, sta. CURASUB15-30, 152 m depth, Curacao.

Palatogobius incendius has been collected on deep reefs at depths of 88 to 200 metres from Curacao and Dominica and observed off Roatan, Honduras. The species occurs exclusively in hovering schools ranging in size from as small as 5 to 10 individuals (rare) up to 50 to 200 individuals. Schools are most frequently found at the top or bottom of vertical walls off Curaçao and Dominica, but off Roatan more than a dozen schools of P. incendius were observed collectively comprising as many as 1000 individuals over a long, gradually inclining stretch of sand and small rocks from around 150 to 170 m depth. Schools of P. incendius generally comprise individuals at multiple life stages, ranging from moderately developed larvae to adults. Off Dominica larger swarms of minuscule fish (about 5 mm TL) were also observed, possibly very recently recruited P. incendius larvae, given their size, abundance and depth range. Individuals in these swarms were too small to be captured, and were observed traveling only a few cm off the bottom rather than hovering in a cloud well above the substrate. These schools of post-larvae were 1–2 m wide and up to 5 m long, and moved steadily upslope at approximately 0.15 m/s, navigating laterally around obstacles in a fashion superficially similar to a wide chain of marching army ants.

The schooling behaviour of Palatogobius incendius may be leaving them open to the danger of lionfish predation, with their schools being easily  driven or corralled by the lionfish into corners of the reef where they are vulnerable to predation.

Curasub Image: Nuytco Research

In recent years the Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) has contributed a significant body of information on the taxonomic makeup of deep-reef fish communities in the Caribbean. Through the use of Substation Curaçao’s ( manned submersible, the Curasub, DROP researchers have described many new species of deep-reef fishes, including several that may be susceptible to lionfish predation due to their body size, shape, and behavior.

That a previously unknown species was collected for the first-time whilst simultaneously being found to be susceptible to predation by invasive lionfish species raises the question of how many other new species are in danger before they’ve been discovered. The greater depths where these new species are being discovered is also the reason behind their discovery. Depths beyond the range of conventional scuba diving are being opened up to discovery through the new technology of submersibles such as the Curasub and through new advanced diving techniques, unfortunately these greater depths also represent an environment where the lionfish feels at home.

Image: NOAA

Lionfish are invasive species from the Indo-Pacific, likely introduced into Atlantic waters through the marine aquarium trade either as escapees or as released specimens. They are primarily crepuscular hunters, and hunt more actively on overcast days with less light and at greater depths. In the western Atlantic lionfish are tolerant of, and thrive at, the cooler temperatures of the deeper reefs, where they have become locally abundant. This is especially concerning for native deep-reef fishes that occur from 50–300 m, where reduced light conditions may make them more susceptible prey for actively hunting lionfishes.

The composition of these deep-reef fish communities differs from that of shallow reefs, and is made up primarily of a unique fauna that includes many undescribed species. This results in a community of poorly known or undescribed species that may be negatively affected by invasive lionfish. To date little is known about the lionfish predation on deep-reef fish assemblages.



Palatogobius incendius Tornabene, Robertson & Baldwin, 2017, the Ember Goby.

Palatogobius – Latin, Palat-, palate, roof of the mouth; -o-, connective vowel; –gobius, a fish of small value, the gudgeon (classical); a fish belonging to the family Gobiidae (modern). “The generic name Palatogobius is in reference to the teeth that may be present on the roof of the mouth.”

incendius – Latin, incendium, a burning, fire, conflagration. “The specific epithet incendius is an adjective formed from the Latin root incendium meaning ‘fire.’ The scientific and proposed common names refer to the bright orange, yellow and reddish-pink coloration on the body, head and fins.”

ESF Top 10 New Species list 2017

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

A species of freshwater stingray, Potamotrygon rex, a swimming centipede Scolopendra cataracta, and a marine worm Xenoturbella churro, all feature in this year’s ESF Top 10 New Species list.

The list, an annual event established in 2008, is compiled by ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration and comprises the Top 10 species from among the thousands of new species named during the previous year, selected by an international committee of taxonomists and calls attention to the fact that new discoveries are being made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified.

The list is published around May 23 each year to coincide with the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy.

Potamotrygon rex Carvalho 2016

Dorsal view of juvenile specimen
Image: Marcelo R. de Carvalho

This large, strikingly patterned freshwater stingray is endemic to the Tocantins River in Brazil and is among the 35 percent of the 350 documented fish species in the Tocantins River that are found nowhere else on Earth. The type specimen is 1,110 mm in length. Large specimens may weigh up to 20 kg.

The stingray has a blackish to blackish-brown background colour, with intense yellow to orange spots that, combined with its size, earn it the title “king.” The discovery of such a large and brightly coloured ray highlights how incompletely we know fishes of the Neotropics.


Potamotrygon – Greek, Potamo-, potamos (ποταμος), river, stream; Latin, trygon, (Greek τρυγων) a stingray.

rex – Latin, absolute monarch, king – named for its large size and striking color pattern

Scolopendra cataracta Siriwut, Edgecombe & Panha, 2016 – Waterfall Centipede or Swimming Centipede

The largest reported centipede, with a maximum recorded body length of around 20 cm.
Image: Siriwut, Edgecombe and Panha

This new centipede is black, has 20 pairs of legs and is up to 20 cm in length. It is the first species of centipede ever observed to be able to plunge into water and both run along the stream bed, in much the same manner as on dry land, and swim with eel-like horizontal undulations of its body. It would appear to have a hydrophobic surface as out of water, water rolls off the centipede’s body leaving it totally dry.

The species, with its surprisingly adept swimming and diving abilities, was discovered under a rock but escaped into a stream where it rapidly ran to and hid under a submerged rock. A member of the predominant centipede genus in tropical regions, the centipede’s amphibious ability is unprecedented. Its population status is of concern because of habitat destruction, including tourist activities, along streams and river embankments where the new species is found.


Scolopendra – Latin, (Greek σκολοπενδρα), a kind of multipede, millepede.

cataracta – Latin, a waterfall. Named for the Tad E-tu Waterfall where the type was collected

Xenoturbella churro Rouse, Wilson, Carvajal & Vrijenhoek, 2016

Discovered deep in the Gulf of California, 1,722 meters below the surface, Xenoturbella churro is a 10 cm-long marine worm, one of half a dozen species now known in the genus. It is representative of a group of primitive worm-like animals that are the earliest branch in the family tree of bilaterally symmetrical animals, including insects and humans. Like some of its relatives it’s believed to feed upon mollusks, such as clams. Curiously, much like coelenterates (corals, anemones, etc.) they have a mouth, but no anus.

Dorsal view. Image: Greg Rouse


XenoturbellaGreek, Xeno-, xenos (ξενος), a guest, stranger, foreigner; foreign, strange; Latin turbella a little crowd, a bustle, stir, diminutive of turba crowd – referring to the cilia which produce minute whirls in the water.

churro – Spanish, a type of fried pastry. The new species is uniformly orange-pink in color with four deep longitudinal furrows that reminded the authors of a churro, a fried-dough pastry popular in Spain and Latin America.

See also: ESF Top 10 New Species list 2016

Scientific Terms: Ologies and Ologists

Additions to the Lexicon …

New category added to the Lexicon – Scientific Terms: Ologies and Ologists


It is not just scientific names that are derived from Latin and Greek, in the aquatic sciences you’ll frequently encounter words ending in -ology (plural -ologies) and -ologist, these are words that describe a particular academic discipline or field of knowledge (an ology) or a student or expert in that particular discipline (an ologist).

If you have a question about the scientific name of any species of aquatic animal, please contact AQUATICAL•LATIN via and we’ll do our best answer your query.

First Ever Cave-fish Discovered in Europe

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

5 th April 2017

The discovery of the first cave-fishes to be found in Europe has been announced in a paper published in Current Biology.

Image: Jasminca Behrmann-Godel

The fish, known for the time being simply as “barbatula” or “cave loach”, was discovered in 2015 by Joachim Kreiselmaier, an amateur cave diver who was exploring a hard-to-reach water-filled cave system named the Danube-Aach System which empties into the Rhine in Germany.

Genetic analysis suggests the cave-fishes are closely related to Barbatula barbatula, the Stone loach, which is found in the nearby Danube and the Radolfzeller Aach, a north tributary of the Rhine. It’s unsure at the moment whether they can be classed as a distinct species, comparison of their appearance and genetics with surface fish caught upstream and downstream from the cave suggests them to be a distinct lineage, with their own adaptations.

Although there has been no reason not to expect to find cave-fish in Europe, up until now they have not been seen; there are some 200 species of cave-fish living in various parts of the world with most of the known species coming from North America and China.

Discovering cave-fish in Germany was surprising as cave systems further south in the Balkans feature around 400 different cave-dwelling species, making it more likely that if cave-fish were to be found it would be there.

According to Kreiselmaier, who has so far brought back five live specimens, the section inhabited by the fish is very difficult to reach, accessible only in dry spells when the underground river is sufficiently calm and clear to allow exploration.

The genetic studies along with geological knowledge of the region suggest the cave loach population is comparatively young, diverging from river fish as the glaciers receded 16,000 to 20,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. In evolutionary terms, this is very recent putting the new discovery at the younger end of the scale of cave-fish worldwide.

Despite the short time span, the fish demonstrate typical adaptions to subterranean life such as pale colouration, smaller eyes, along with larger barbels and nostrils.

Having lost the colouration of the surface population, a mixture of brown, green and yellow, they are pale, with a rose or pinkish tint, as the blood vessels are visible through the skin. The eyes are still there (some species of cave-fish lose the eyes completely) but are around half the size of those of the river fishes. They don’t appear to react to light but it is unclear whether they are still functioning. The larger, longer barbels may be an adaption to tactile sensing in the dark.

These loaches are also believed to be the most northerly species of cave-fish ever discovered.

Barbatula barbatula Linnaeus, 1758 – Stone loach


Barbatula  Latin, diminutive form of barbatus, with a small beard; having a small or foppish beard; name is a reference to the three pairs of mouth barbels.

Name is an example of a tautonym, where both genus and species name are the same.


AQUATICAL•LATIN – the online etymology

AQUATICAL•LATIN – the online etymology, is a new addition to AQUATICAL•LATIN

It is an online alphabetical dictionary comprising genus and species names of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and aquatic associated species. This is a work in progress and it will take some time before it becomes anywhere near comprehensive, which, given the shear number of aquatic species (33,100 described species of fish alone) will be some way in the future.

Contact Us

If you’re curious about the scientific name of any particular species of aquatic animal please contact AQUATICAL•LATIN via and we’ll add it to the entomolgy..

Blackline fangblenny

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

31 March 2017

A report in the March 30 issue of Current Biology indicates that Fangblenny fish venom most likely causes a sudden drop in blood pressure in would-be predators that have been bitten by blennies.

The Blackline fangblenny is a species of Blenny belonging to the Family Blennidae, its one of a number of similar small species (generally ranging from 4 -10 cms in length, the Blackline being at the upper end of the range) sometimes referred to as saber-toothed blennies. Their distinguishing characteristic is the possession of a pair of large curved canines, mounted at the front of the lower jaw, which have a prominent groove associated with venom glands, that they use for defence against predatory fishes. Interestingly a number of non-venomous blennies have evolved similar colour patterns and swimming behaviour enabling them to mimic their venomous relatives, a process known as Batesian mimicry.

Image: Richard Field

When researchers analysed extracted fangblenny venom, they found three components – a neuropeptide that occurs in cone snail venom, a lipase similar to one from scorpions, and an opioid peptide. Surprisingly, when they injected the fangblenny venom into lab mice they found it to be apparently painless, as usually fish with venomous dorsal spines produce immediate and blinding pain, this indicates a different mechanism at work; although, as the researchers used rodents for the pain test, they can’t entirely rule out the possibility of blenny venom causing pain in fish, but it seems plausible that the neuropeptide and opioid components may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, most likely leaving any attacker disorientated and unable to give chase giving the fangblenny a chance to escape. While the feeling of pain is not produced, opioids can produce, at least in mammals, sensations of extremely unpleasant nausea and dizziness.

An incidental finding from the study was evidence suggesting that fangblenny fangs evolved before the venom whereas usually, as in snakes for instance, some sort of venom secretions evolved first, before the elaborate venom delivery mechanism.

Meiacanthus nigrolineatus Smith-Vaniz, 1969 – Blackline fangblenny


Meiacanthus – Greek, Mei-, meion (meiωn), lesser, less; -acanthus, akantha (ακaνθα), thorn. Name alluding to the relatively few dorsal-fin spines in most species.

nigrolineatus – Latin, nigro-, niger, black, sable, dark, dusky; -lineatus, line. Name referring to the narrow black stripe extending from the rear of the eye along the base of the dorsal fin to the base of the tail which is the most distinctive characteristic of the species.

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


Aquatic scientific names in the news …


Haddock featured in the media on the 16th March with various stories indicating that the fish, a popular choice in the UK, was “being taken off the menu” owing to lack of sustainability (see: Guardian). As a result of a change in scientific advice the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) downgraded the sustainability ratings of Haddock on its Good Fish Guide website of three haddock fisheries in the North Sea and West of Scotland area. The two North Sea haddock fisheries are now rated 4 (amber), and the third has dropped from being a good choice (rated 2) to one to eat only occasionally (rated 3), meaning they’re no longer on the MCS recommended green list of fish to eat.

Image: MCS

Haddock are members of the Gadidae, a family of marine fish included in the order Gadiformes, known as the cods, codfishes or true cods. This family contains many commercially important species including cod, haddock, pollock, and whiting.

Similar to Cod in appearance, although smaller reaching sizes of up to 1.1m (Cod reaches up to 2m), it has a dark coloured lateral line and features a prominent dark blotch over the pectoral fins that’s sometimes referred to as the “Devil’s thumbprint” or “St. Peter’s mark”. Found in the North Atlantic Ocean at a depth of between 80 to 200 m, at temperatures between 4° and 10°C, it’s a demersal feeder, feeding mainly on small bottom-living organisms such as crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, worms and fishes.

Haddock is fished all year round and is a very popular food fish, along with Atlantic Cod and Plaice. It is one of the mainstays of the British fish and chip shop, and is also often enjoyed smoked.

Image: Wikipedia

The reporting of this story in the media appears to have resulted in a certain amount of misinterpretation of the situation with various fishing organisations being very vocal in response to any suggestion of a lack of sustainability and the similarly acronymed Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) also querying the MCS’s actions (see: BBC).

The MCS has since issued a response to the media coverage of this story (see: MCS)

Melanogrammus aeglefinus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Haddock


Melanogrammus – Greek, Melano-, melanos (μελανος), black, dark; –grammus, gramma (γραμμα), that which is drawn, stroke of a pen, a line; lined – likely referring to the presence of the dark lateral line.

aeglefinus – etymology uncertain, may be derived from the French word for Haddock, aiglefin, which may, in turn be derived from the Greek, aigle (αιγλη), sunlight, gleam; shining, gleaming.

Bowhead whale

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Bowhead whale

29th May – A Bowhead whale was sighted off Carlingford Lough, Ireland. This is a rare sighting of an Arctic species, more than a thousand miles outside of its natural range and reportedly the first ever to be spotted in Irish waters; the whale was described as being around 20 foot long (just under 7 metres) so likely a juvenile.  A sighting had been previously reported of a Bowhead of a similar size off Cornwall two weeks ago on May 15th, possibly the same individual. For more details of the current sighting see the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) website.

Bow Head whale, Carlingford entrance 290516Image: IWDG

The Bowhead whale is the second largest species of whale after the Blue whale; generally measuring between 14 and 18 metres in length when fully grown (females usually a metre or so longer than males) and weigh from 75,000 to 100,000 kg. Calves have an average length at birth of 4.25 to 5.25 metres.

They have a large, robust, dark-colored body and a white chin/lower jaw. The common name of Bowhead derives from their bow-shaped mouth which features a strongly bowed lower jaw making a U-shape around the narrow upper jaw and is, incidentally, the largest mouth of any species.

Bow Head 2 Carlingford 290516 - Low ResImage: IWDG


Bowhead whales don’t appear to be social animals, typically traveling alone or in small pods of up to six. They are believed to be the longest lived mammal with an estimated lifespan of up to 200 years.

They are found only in Arctic and subarctic regions spending much of their lives in and near the pack ice, migrating to the high Arctic in summer, and retreating southward in winter with the advancing ice edge, and are rarely found below 45 degrees north latitude.

Balaena mysticetus Linnaeus, 1758 – Bowhead whale


Balaena – Latin, balaena, a whale.

mysticetus – Greek, μυστικητος, mysti, mustac (μυσταξ), moustache, upper lip; -cetus (κητος), whale.

A possible alternative etymology derives from the assumption that there has been a transmission or translation error in older editions of Aristotle’s Historia Animalium; whereas modern editions read ο μυς το κητος,the whale known as the mouse” or “the ‘mouse’, i.e. the whale so called’ (maybe an ironic reference to the animals’ great size), earlier editions mistakenly ran the words together as ο μυστικητος,the Mysticetus”. Ref. OED