Tag Archives: fish

Please help me with the weird Latin name of a wonderful fish: Awaous banana

Image: Awaous banana, from a tributary of the Sibun River, Belize; photos © Eric Meng, with permission

I’m sure you’ll agree: this (above) is an utterly enchanting fish, strange and beautiful at the same time.  It’s the river goby, a widespread fish of New World subtropical and tropical streams from Florida and Texas south to Peru.  I ran across it* two weeks ago, while teaching my tropical ecology field course in Belize.  It’s not just its gorgeous patterning; and it isn’t just its startling size (there are about 2,000 species of gobies in the world; few exceed 10 cm in length**, or about half the size of the colossus in the photo). It’s also, at least for me, its name: Awaous banana.

Awaous banana?  What kind of psychedelic fever might lead someone to name a fish Awaous banana
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The joys of other people’s field work

Photos: Pulling in a gill net in Vatnshlíðarvatn; and a male arctic charr in spawning colour (S. Heard).

I’ve just come back from gill-netting arctic charr in Vatnshlíðarvatn, a small, shallow lake just west of Varmahlíð in northern Iceland. The charr in this lake are a pair of morphs (a diet specialist and a diet generalist), and the aim was to collect fish of each morph for stable isotope and genetic analysis. It was a sunny July morning (about 7 ºC, which isn’t bad for Iceland), the fish were beautiful, and I enjoyed the work thoroughly.

Those of you who know me are, by now, smelling a rat: I don’t work on fish. Continue reading

Wonderful Latin Names, Part II: Abudefduf saxatilis

(Image by Klaus Rudloff, kdrudloff@web.de, via http://www.biolib.cz)

Today’s Wonderful Latin Name is that of the Sergeant Major: Abudefduf saxatilis. The Sergeant Major is a common damselfish of the tropical Atlantic, often the first fish a new snorkeler or diver learns because it’s beautiful, abundant, and distinctive. Like the hoopoe (Upupa epops, the subject of Wonderful Latin Names, Part I), the Sergeant Major has a Latin name that’s both fun to say and etymologically interesting. I was first drawn to the name because of its peculiar rhythm: Abudefduf saxatilis. It seems to have a time-signature change between genus and species, which arises because the species name is conventionally Latin, while the genus name is Arabic. Continue reading