If you could rename an existing species

I would rename that just-published new species of tiny dinosaur from Myanmar amber something that included information about the crimes against humanity that happened to get it from the mine to a museum so it couldn’t be ignored or overlooked. Like whatever the Latin, Greek, Mandarin, Burmese, or relevant Kachin language is for “from a slave pit” or “product of genocide”.
For those interested, here’s a good overview post with links to more detailed news articles: https://markwitton-com.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-ugly-truth-behind-oculudentavis.html

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I seem to remember reading somewhere that the term Butterfly was first applied to a species of yellow that did indeed look to someone like it was the color of butter. The thing that fascinates me about butterflies is that even closely related languages have such vastly different names for them; taking four neighboring Romance languages:

Italian: farfalle
French: papillon
Spanish: mariposa
Portuguese: borboleta

All of which, incidentally, I find more aesthetically pleasing than the word butterfly.

If I had to pick one, I would change the name of the Hwamei. Its current Chinese name, 画眉, (pronounced huà-méi) means “painted eyebrows.” I would instead make it 华美 (pronounced huá-měi), meaning “exquisitely beautiful.”

You intrigued me, had to google it to find people believed butterflies are souls of progenitress because they flew to the light of houses and it means pretty much as what babushka means.

I laughed out loud at Non-Orange-crowned Warbler. Whenever you point out an orange-crowned warbler to a non-birder, there is usually utter confusion about where the orange is.


Savannah Sparrow seems like a dumb name to me, especially since it is named after Savannah, Georgia, but lives throughout most of North America far beyond Georgia. I would name it Yellow-Lored Sparrow. Acadian Flycatcher is a dumb name, especially since it doesn’t even live in Nova Scotia. I don’t have a suggestion for a name because I wish all Empid flycatchers were one species (just for identification purposes. I don’t have a scientific reason).


I suspect that “Acadian” in this instance refers to the people now called Cajun.


Spotted Dove to Mottled Dove

House Crow to Grey-Necked Crow (which is much more appropriate and is actually a real name)

Alexandrine Parakeet to Red-Shouldered Parakeet

Carrhotus as Smooth Jumpers

Tropical Fire Ant to Incenerator Ant

Red Imported Fire Ant (what a boring name) to Joss-stick Fire Ant

Once-Married Underwing to Married Underwing (that Once is not required)

Sri Lankan Bullfrog to Orange-blotched Globular Frog

Brown Recluse to Brown Violin Spider

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Utah serviceberry to Western or Desert serviceberry

Torrey wolfberry to Purple or Lavender (in contrast to the ‘Pale’ species)

Broom dalea to New Mexico indigobush

Hairy five-eyes to less-hairy five-eyes
Gray five-eyes to more-hairy five-eyes
Trans-pecos five-eyes to we-forgot-Mexico-exists five-eyes (or “Chihuahuan”, that’s shorter)

New common names for Aliciella, Gilia, or Ipomopsis - you can’t all be gilias!

Abolish common names for Penstemon, it’s too confusing:

  • Rocky Mountain (strictus) now also grows in the Sierras
  • The flowers of Rydberg’s are just as small the Small-flowered (procerus)
  • Palmer’s and James’ are much more inflated than inflatus
  • Upright blue (virgatus) is most commonly pink or purple and occasionally white
  • Nurseries in Colorado and New Mexico call barbatus Scarlet Bugler, which is a different species in California
  • Generic common names like Southwestern and Desert aren’t that useful with literally dozens of species in the desert southwest
  • Finally, who decided that lentus was more handsome than fendleri? Bonus points if you can tell them apart!

Now, I’m not sure what I’d rename them to, but “Big Skate” (Raja binoculata) and “Little Skate” (Leucoraja erinacea) have got to go. They bother me so much…

Maybe Big Skate could be changed to become ‘binocular skate’? I’m not sure about the little skate, though…

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Common names that use Eastern, Western, Southwestern, etc. are not particularly useful unless you live in the region that those directions are referring to. For North Americans, those names work for us for species that occur in North America but are otherwise uninformative.


Turkey Vulture. I mean, does it look any more “turkey-like” than any other New World vulture? Not really! Since its congeners are Yellow-headed Vultures, and it is partly sympatric with Black Vulture, why not call it Red-headed Vulture? Boring, sure, but more distinctly descriptive than Turkey Vulture.


I kinda like Turkey Vulture. I also like the shortened version, TV. And I think they look more like turkeys than any other vultures in the area. Bald head with some color, like a turkey.

I just found a related name I’d like to change, Wild Turkey. What a useless modifier.


Bokmakierie: Telophorus zeylonus to Telophorus capensis
It is not found anywhere near what used to be called Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, and it is found near Cape, South Africa. Thus, I named it Telophorus capensis. Capensis is a really common term for birds which have not once shown up anywhere near South Africa.

Stork-billed Kingfisher: Pelargopsis capensis to Pelargopsis cyanopterus

It is not found anywhere near Cape, South Africa, and since it is found in practically most of Indomalaya, location cannot describe it. Thus, I used its blue wings, unique to it among its genus, and thus called it Pelargopsis cyanopterus.

Rufous-collared Sparrow: Zonotrichia capensis to Zonotrichia ruficollis.

I have no idea why an exclusively South American bird would be named after Cape, South Africa, so I decided to name it after its common name, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and called it Zonotrichia ruficollis. Pretty straightforward.

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I second that!

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I might be missing something here, but maybe it’s named after one of the capes at the southern tip of South America, like Cape Horn or something? Z. capensis does reach that far south, after all.


Seems reasonable. Would help to know the type locality for the species which could provide a clue to the etymology. Lots of species have erroneous scientific names based on bad information as to where they were collected, such as the New World white-winged dove.


Check out: curioustaxonomy.net

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White-winged Dove: Zenaida asiatica to Zenaida mexicana

It is found in Mexico and other parts of Central America, not Asia.