ESF Top 10 New Species list 2016

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Two species of fish, an Anglerfish, Lasiognathus dinema, and a Seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea, 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.

Lasiognathus dinema Pietsch & Sutton, 2015

dinemaImage: Theodore W. Pietsch, University of Washington

Discovered during a Natural Resource Damage Assessment conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. A small deep sea species of Wolftrap angler (1,000 to 1,500 metres, around 5cms in length) with a prominent esca. Different species of anglerfish can be distinguished visually by the details of a structure called an esca (Latin, food, bait) that projects over their heads like a fishing rod and is believed to act as a lure to attract prey. This organ is located at the tip of a highly modified, elongated dorsal ray, in some species the esca is home to symbiotic bacteria that are bioluminescent, producing light (a rare commodity in the depths of the ocean) and is presumed to aid in the attraction of prey.


Lasiognathus – Greek, Lasio-, lasios ασιος) , shaggy, wooly, hairy; -gnathus, gnathos (γναθος), jaw. Alluding to the huge number of long teeth of the upper jaw

dinema – Greek, di- (δι), two; -nema, nhma (νημα), that which is spun, thread, filament; referring to two thread-like prolongations arising from base of escal hooks.

Phyllopteryx dewysea Stiller, Wilson, & Rouse, 2015 – Ruby seadragon

ruby seadragon Image: Western Australian Museum

Only the third known species of seadragon, and the first to be discovered in 150 years, possibly because it lives in slightly deeper waters than its relatives. A relatively large species, around 24 cms in length, it has rarely been previously encountered; the coloration suggests it lives in deeper waters than other seadragons since red shading would be absorbed at depth, effectively serving as camouflage.


Phyllopteryx – Greek, Phyllo, phyhllon (φυλλον), leaf; -pteryx, pteruc (πτερυξ), wing, fin. Alluding to the small leaf-like appendages of the first named member of the genus, the Common or Weedy Seadragon.

dewysea – Latinized name, honouring, “… Mary ‘Dewy’ Lowe, for her love of the sea and her support of seadragon conservation and research, without which this new species would not have been discovered.” Of the Lowe Family Foundation.

Ref. A spectacular new species of seadragon (Syngnathidae) Josefin Stiller, Nerida G. Wilson, Greg W. Rouse. Royal Society Open Science 2015

Minke whale

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Minke whale

8th May – A Minke whale has washed up on the beach near Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, England, in the vicinity of the Sea View car park. The whale, variously described as being 4 or 5 metres long and estimated to weigh up to two tonnes, is the sixth whale to wash up on the east coast of England in three months (see: Sperm whale).

minke2Image: Mablethorpe Coastguard

The Minke whale is the smallest of the baleen whales found in UK waters, measuring 7 to 10 metres when fully grown, females usually slightly longer than males, and weighing up to 9,200 kg. The body is slender and streamlined, the head narrow and pointed. They have a small sickle shaped dorsal fin positioned about two-thirds of the way down the back, this can be used as a unique feature to identify individual animals. The dorsal fin and back are dark grey or black, the belly bright white, and there is a distinctive white band on the upper side of each pectoral fin.

Minke_Whale_(NOAA)Image: NOAA

Minke whales are generally a solitary species with a lifespan estimated at around 40 to 50 years. They have a wide distribution and are found from the tropics to the ice edges in the northern hemisphere, although their annual movement patterns are not fully understood but they are thought to make a general migration between tropical breeding grounds in the winter, and colder feeding regions during the summer.

Balaenoptera acutorostrata Lacepede, 1804 – Common minke whale


Balaenoptera – Latin, Balaen-, balaena, a whale; -o-, connective vowel; -ptera, Greek, pteron, wing, fin. Alluding to the to the long wing-like pectoral fins generally characteristic of the genus.

acutorostrata – Latin, acut-, acutus, sharpened, pointed, sharp, cutting; -o-, connective vowel; -rostrata, rostratus, having a beak, hooked, with a crooked point, beaked, with a curved front. Alluding to the shape of the head.

Common name etymology.

The name Minke is said to have derived from one of whaler Svend Foyn’s crew by the name of Meincke (likely a novice), who mistook a school of these whales for blue whales. Whalers all over the world considered this incident so amusing that they used his name as a household word to describe this species.

Ref. J. N.  Tønnessen & A. O. Johnsen, “The History of Modern Whaling” (transl. R.I. Christophersen), 1982

Dwarf sperm whale

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Dwarf sperm whale

1st May – A 2.42-metre whale, believed to be a rare dwarf sperm whale, died after being stranded at Lake Tyers beach, Victoria, Australia, a species never previously seen in the state.

Dwarf sperm whaleImage: Victorian water, environment, land and planning department.

The Dwarf sperm whale is one of three extant species in the sperm whale family along with the similar sized and more common Pygmy sperm whale and the much larger Sperm whale, and is the smallest species commonly known as a whale, growing up to 2.7 metres in length and weighing up to 250 kilograms, making it smaller than the larger species of dolphin.

An inconspicuous species that is rarely sighted at sea, most information about the them coming from the study of stranded carcasses. The dwarf sperm whale is thought to be widely distributed in tropical and temperate zones of all the world’s oceans, mostly living in deep water and believed to concentrate around the edge of the continental shelf.

220px-Kogia_simaImage: © Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0

One curious feature of Dwarf sperm whales, and the related Pygmy sperm whales, is that they are unique among cetaceans in using a form of “ink” to evade predation in a manner similar to squid. Both species have a sac in the lower portion of their intestinal tract that contains up to 12 litres of dark reddish-brown fluid, which can be ejected to confuse or discourage potential predators.

Kogia sima Owen, 1866 Dwarf sperm whale


Kogia – Etymology uncertain; possibilities include a reference to a Cogia Effendi, a Turkish naturalist who observed whales in the Mediterranean Sea in the early 1800s, a latinized form of “codger” (although this may be back-formed from Kogia), or maybe a meaningless or nonsense word.

sima – Latin, simus, flat-nosed, snub-nosed – named, “… in reference to its peculiarly short obtuse muzzle.”

Ref. Owen, R. (1866). On some Indian Cetacea collected by Walter Elliot, Esq. Transactions of the Zoological Society, London.

Megamouth shark

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Megamouth shark

15th April – a Megamouth shark has been reported caught in a fishing net about three miles from the Owase Port in Mie Prefecture, Japan.

megamouthPhoto showing the size of the mouth.

An extremely rare species of deepwater shark, it is the smallest of the three extant planktivorous sharks alongside the whale shark and basking shark, growing to a length of around 5.5 metres (male), 7.0 metres (female).

megamouth2Images: Sunrise/Channel 7

It is a filter-feeder, it feeds by swimming slowly (1.5–2.1 km/h) with its enormous mouth wide open, filtering the water for plankton, during the day at a depth of around 120–160 m, but as the sun sets rising to spend the night at depths of between 12 and 25 m, demonstrating a pattern of vertical migration seen in many marine animals as they track the movement of plankton in the water column.

The first Megamouth shark to be seen was discovered in 1976 off the coast of Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi, when it became entangled in the sea anchor of United States Navy ship, it was not until 1983 that it was identified as a new species and officially described.

Megamouth sharks remain rare, up until 2015 only around 60 sightings had been recorded although one source now suggests 103 sightings to date – see

Megachasma pelagios  Taylor, Compagno & Struhsaker, 1983 – Megamouth shark


Megachasma – Greek, Megamegas (μεγας), large, great; chasma, xasma (χασμα), yawning hole, open mouth – alluding to the size of the mouth.

pelagios – Greek, (πελαγιος), of the open sea.

Ref. Megamouth – a new species, genus, and family of lamnoid shark (Megachasma pelagios, family Megachasmidae) from the Hawaiian Islands. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (Series 4) v. 43

Basking shark

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Basking shark

The first Basking shark sighting of 2016 has been reported off Cornwall. It was photographed in Mount’s Bay on Wednesday 6th July during a wildlife cruise.

456px-Cetorhinus_maximus_by_greg_skomalImage: Greg Skomal / NOAA Fisheries Service

The Basking shark is the second largest shark after the Whale shark and the biggest fish found in British waters, reportedly reaching lengths of around 12 metres. A planktivorous species that feeds close to the surface, passively filtering zooplankton, small fish, and invertebrates from the water, it is a seasonal visitor to British waters, usually arriving in significant numbers between May and October each year, in search of plankton blooms.

In winter, Basking sharks leave British waters and move offshore to depths of around 900 m to feed on deep-water plankton.

Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765)


Cetorhinus – Greek, Ceto, khtos (κητος), any sea monster, sea monster slain by Perseus (mythology), huge fish, whale; rhinus, rinos, ris (ρις), nose, snout – likely referring to the protuberant snout

maximus – Latin, greatest, largest – likely referring to overall size.

Indian dancing frog

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Indian dancing frog

Tadpoles of the Indian dancing frog have been seen for the first time.
Although scientists have long known about the adult frogs and their graceful displays, or dances, which lure mates and ward off rival males, the juveniles of the species had never been seen before. That’s likely because during this developmental stage, the tadpoles live entirely below the stream bed surface, buried deeply in the silt and gravel. The newly discovered tadpoles have flat, eel-like bodies and powerful muscular tails adapted for wriggling through silt and mud.

dancing frog tadpolesPreviously unseen dancing frog tadpoles. Image: SD Biju

Micrixalus species frogs are popularly known as dancing frogs due to their display behaviour involving waving their feet in the air, known as “foot-flagging”, to attract females during the breeding season. Males tap their hindfeet and extend it upwards, subsequently stretching the foot outward and shaking it, both at prospective mates and rival males.

Micrixalus foot flaggingFoot-flagging

They make their burrows in the forest rivers of the Western Ghats mountain range, along India’s west coast and, up until now, were believed to be the only species of frog or toad where the tadpoles remained unidentified.

Micrixalus herrei (Myers, 1942)


Micrixalus – Greek, micr-, mikros (μικρος), small; -ixalus, an invalid genus, a common generic root in treefrog names; (ιξαλος) bounding, springing, spry (classical – applied to the ibex and wild goats) – small Ixalus.

herrei – Latinized surnameI. Named in honour of Dr. Albert W. Herre (1868 – 1962), Curator of Ichthyology in the Natural History Museum of Stanford University.

Hermit crab

Aquatic scientific names in the news …

Hermit crab

A rare type of hermit crab has been rediscovered at a beach in Falmouth after a 30 year absence. The find at Castle Beach was made during a survey run by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The tiny crab, sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean hermit crab, scientific name Clibanarius erythropus, has not been recorded in Cornish waters since 1985.

Clibanarius erythropus

Image, Matt Slater

It is a rockpool species that grows up to a carapace length of 15 millimetres found mainly in warmer waters with a range including the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Eastern Atlantic from the Azores to Brittany, the Channel Islands and as far north as the south of Cornwall.

Local marine experts said that in the past the species had been occasionally found on the south coast of Cornwall but had virtually disappeared since the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1967, and that the reappearance may mean that Cornwall’s marine life has now fully recovered from the environmental disaster.

Clibanarius erythropus (Latreille, 1818)


Clibanarius – Latin, a soldier clad in mail, a cuirassier. Likely alluding to the gastropod shell used by the crab for shelter.

erythropus – Greek, erythro-, eruthros (ερυθρος), red; -pus, pous (πυος), foot – with red feet, red-footed, red-legged.

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.”


Words relating to markings

Additions to the Lexicon …

New category added to the Lexicon – Words relating to markings.

Along with terms relating to colour those relating to markings or pattern are frequently encountered in the make-up of the scientific names of aquatic animals, particularly in those names referring to fishes.

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.


Additions to the Lexicon …

New category added to the Lexicon – Suffixes.

A suffix is an affix which is placed at the end of a compound word modifying the meaning of the word as a whole or indicating grammatical properties such as case, gender, or number.

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.