Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians


New species of animal and plant are being discovered all the time. When this happens, the new species has to be given a scientific, Latin name in addition to any common, vernacular name. In either case the species may be named after a person, often the discoverer but sometimes an individual they wished to honour or perhaps were staying with at the time the discovery was made. Species names related to a person are ‘eponyms’. Many scientific names are allusive, esoteric and even humorous, so an eponym dictionary is...
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The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians

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New species of animal and plant are being discovered all the time. When this happens, the new species has to be given a scientific, Latin name in addition to any common, vernacular name. In either case the species may be named after a person, often the discoverer but sometimes an individual they wished to honour or perhaps were staying with at the time the discovery was made. Species names related to a person are ‘eponyms’. Many scientific names are allusive, esoteric and even humorous, so an eponym dictionary is a valuable resource for anyone, amateur or professional, who wants to decipher the meaning and glimpse the history of a species name. Sometimes a name refers not to a person but to a fictional character or mythological figure. The Forest Stubfoot Toad Atelopus farci is named after the FARC, a Colombian guerrilla army who found refuge in the toad’s habitat and thereby, it is claimed, protected it. Hoipollo's Bubble-nest Frog Pseudophilautus hoipolloi was named after the Greek for ‘the many’, but someone assumed the reference was to a Dr Hoipollo. Meanwhile, the man who has everything will never refuse an eponym: Sting's Treefrog Dendropsophus stingi is named after the rock musician, in honour of his ‘commitment and efforts to save the rainforest’. Following the success of their Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles , the authors have joined forces to give amphibians a similar treatment. They have tracked down 1,609 honoured individuals and composed for each a brief, pithy biography. In some cases these are a reminder of the courage of scientists whose dedicated research in remote locations exposed them to disease and even violent death. The eponym ensures that their memory will survive, aided by reference works such as this highly readable dictionary. Altogether 2,668 amphibians are listed.
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Editorial Reviews

Phyllomedusa - 12(1)

This book is a follow-up to the “Eponym Dictionary of Mammals” (2009) and “The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles” (2011), both by the same authors. This series of books lists those species that were named for people, or in some cases for “a place that was itself named after a person”.

The book contains 2,668 amphibian names: 1,609 honour known individuals, while 83 relate to “indigenous peoples, conservation groups, guerrilla armies, chartered accountants and biblical and mythological references.” A further 128 names “sound like people’s names but in fact are not”. Lastly, 11 of the entries are for people whom the authors have been unable to identify.

The book begins with a three-page Introduction, in which the authors detail the underlying premises of the book. I find it interesting to read about the unforeseen decisions that authors must make when compiling books such as this. The authors state that “tracking down the provenance of eponymous names, and finding out about the individuals responsible for them, proved to be fraught with difficulties.” The remainder of the book consists of the entries of eponymous amphibian names. Only extant species are treated; no fossil names are included.

The book is organized alphabetically by the names of persons for whom amphibians have been named. Each name is followed by a chronological list of the genera or species named for the person. English common name, scientific name, authority and year are provided for each species. Describers who appear more than once are in boldface. Each entry concludes with a biographical sketch of the person for whom the species is named.

Sometimes a new species will be described more than once, under different names, by different authors. In these cases, there are entries for both names, with the synonymy noted. Taxonomy is based on AmphibiaWeb, and is quite up-to-date, although given the recent rate of amphibian taxonomic change, many names will soon be superseded. In cases where location names have changed, both the current name and the original name are provided.

The authors point out in the Introduction that published descriptions in the literature often do not include a common vernacular name, and that these names are often added later, by persons other than the describer. Only the names of describer(s) are provided in the entries. I was surprised by the number of species for which common names do not reflect the specific epithet; for example, Ahl’s Toad is Duttaphrynus himalayanus; Ford’s Robber Frog is Craugastor daryi. This illustrates the often capricious origin and use of common names. In some cases the species was named in honour of a person, but the person’s name is not part of the species’ scientific name (eg. Pristimantis librarius).

Some biographies are quite brief, the only source a short Etymology section in the original description. Others are longer, over 200 words. The latter deal mostly with the professional (usually herpetological) accomplishments of the namesake, including appearances in the authors’ previous eponym dictionaries. Some biographies, however, catalogue the varied and interesting lives of their subjects, and in some cases invite a reader to investigate further (eg. Denhardt, Eyre, Humboldt, Lemaire).

The book ends with a Bibliography of 1.5 pages. Most entries here are journals from which descriptions were obtained. The list of journals is not exhaustive; although not explicitly stated, presumably the authors relied on AmphibiaWeb as a source for species described in journals that may not have been accessible. Phyllomedusa is not included in the bibliography; some species described in Phyllomedusa (Allobates granti, Pristimantis woranii and Litoria kuduki) are in the book, whereas others (Allobates algorei and Mannophryne orellana) are not.

I searched for some eponymous amphibian names that I described. Stefania coxi is included, but Stefania ackawaio (named for an indigenous people) is not, even though it was described in the same paper as S. coxi (Herpetologica, 2002). Adelophryne patamona, another species described for an indigenous people (Zootaxa, 2008), was also excluded, whereas Anomaloglossus kaiei (named for a Patamona chieftan) was included. I was surprised by the inclusion of Stefania ayangannae, which was named for the type locality, Mount Ayanganna in Guyana, not for a person.

I would have liked to see the type locality for each species included, but this is a minor quibble. I found no typos.

I found the book captivating. I enjoyed reading the short capsule biographies, many of which contained details that I found fascinating, and encourage further reading. I would also have liked to read more details about the “difficulties” alluded to in the Introduction. I realize, however, that space is limited.

The book is available in print, ePub, PDF and Mobi formats. My review copy was in PDF format, so I was unable to evaluate the paper, printing and binding.

Ross D. MacCulloch

Reference Reviews - Alisa Mizikar

The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibiansis clearly a labour of love and a fascinating work. The entries are concise and informative and often entertaining. While it could have been improved with the addition of an index or two, it will still be a valuable resource for professional and amateur herpetologist alike.

Times Literary Supplement - Geordie Torr

What links Sting, Thomas Jefferson,Mozart, Montezuma, the inventor ofthe OXO stock cube, and BilboBaggins? Well, it turns out that they’ve all hadfrogs named after them, and by dint of that fact,they all appear in this surprisingly entertainingbook. The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibianscollects 1,609 “honoured individuals” afterwhom 2,668 amphibians are named. Each getsa concise biography of varying length. Theauthors have deliberately chosen to give shorterentries to those, such as Charles Darwin, whoare already well known.

How do you go about having a frog orsalamander named after you? Finding a newspecies helps, but generally only if you give it tosomeone else to name (naming something afteryourself is considered poor form, although it

does occasionally happen – apparently DrVincent A. Wager somehow managed to namea species of Stream Frog, Strongylopus wageri,after himself “by mistake”). Going by the evidencecontained in this book, the best option isto be a biologist of one species or another. Beinga herpetologist (someone who studies reptilesand amphibians) helps, but you could be anearwig specialist and still be chosen.

Being related to a herpetologist is also a goodoption – numerous parents, siblings, offspringand the odd grandmother get entries, as do quitea few long-suffering wives. And then there arethe intrepid collectors who risk life and limb tobring back unusual specimens from steamingjungles – such as Roy Chapman Andrews, whois believed by many to have been the real-lifeIndiana Jones. You could also try being theexpedition comedian: one Thomas J. Berger, immortalized in Berger’s Glass Frog, Hyalinobatrachiumbergeri, “provided comic reliefwhile securing part of the type series”.

Of course, not all the eponyms are derivedfrom real people. Gods and other charactersfrom a variety of mythologies crop up regularly.The Obree Rainforest Frog, Cophixalussisyphus, was named after the founder ofCorinth – condemned by the gods to spendeternity pushing a rock up a hill–because of theeffort involved in sorting out the taxonomy ofthe group of species it belongs to. The WineRobber Frog, Pristimantis bacchus, was namedfor the Roman god of wine, the moniker beinga “loose allusion to the blood-red eyes of thisfrog”. James Menzies, a renowned expert onthe frogs of Papua New Guinea, was obsessedby Wagner’s ring cycle, and named speciesafter Swanhilde, Gudrun, Brünnhilde andFafner, among other characters. Several figuresfrom J. R. R. Tolkien’s works also feature in thisbook.

My friend Dr Stephen J. Richards, oncenamed a frog Litoria majikthise: Majikthise(pronounced “magic thighs”) was a character inThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and thename reflected the frog’s “vividly colouredthighs and groin”. There is obviously a certainsort of taxonomist who delights in suchmetaphorical literary connections. The name ofRostand’s Papuan Treefrog, Litoria rostandi, aspecies with a long, fleshy snout, commemoratesthe French playwright Eugène Rostand,who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac. The cinemagets a look-in, too. A species of Glassfrog, Teratohylaamelie, was named for the protagonistof Amélie, a film in which “little details play an important role in the achievement of joie de vivrelike the important role that Glassfrogs andall amphibians and reptiles play in the health ofour planet”. At times this humour is a littleoverworked. Take the Executioner’s Treefrog,Hyla carnifex. Many of the early specimenswere collected by John D. Lynch; the Latinword carnifex means public executioner orhangman.

While this book functions effectively as anetymological dictionary, it also works as atreasure trove of amusing and intriguing nuggetsof biographical detail. For example, there’sDavid Howells Fleay (Fleay’s Barred Frog,Mixophyes fleayi), “the last person to photographa thylacine [Tasmanian tiger] in captivityin Hobart Zoo; it bit him on the buttock and heproudly carried the scar for life”. And then thereis the French explorer René Chudeau, afterwhom the Bata Marsh Toad, Amietophrynuschudeaui, was named; he discovered the firstdinosaur bones in Niger and was summarilydismissed from his post as a lecturer at theUniversity of Besançon for living with analleged prostitute. And the remarkable IdaLaura Pfeiffer, immortalized in Ida’s BrighteyedFrog, Boophis idae, who, after circumnavigatingthe globe twice in the mid-1800s,became embroiled in a plot to overthrow thegovernment of Madagascar and was expelledfrom the country.

The book also exposes the role serendipityplays in the discovery of new species. TheHokuriku Salamander, Hynobius takedai, wasnamed after Toshio Takeda, a former headmaster,who collected the holotype – the single originalspecimen used to describe the species –while cleaning the schoolyard drains and whonow devotes his time to helping prevent thecreature from sliding into extinction. And it revealsthe perils of engaging in herpetology as acareer. Many of those mentioned died of malaria,several were gored by buffalo, one was trampledby a wounded elephant, and another wasfatally bitten by his pet snake.

IRCF Reptiles & Amphibians - Robert Powell

Speaking of the Eponym Dictionary of Mammals, George A.Feldhamer, writing for the Quarterly Review of Biology, said:“I suspect that there are few people interested in picking up adictionary for ‘fun’ reading.” I suspect he was right. however,the eponym dictionaries are enjoyable — and sometimes downright fun. Although professionals will use them to solicitinformation about the people (and sometimes places and miscellaneous groups) for whom animals are named, these dictionaries are not so highly technical or full of jargon that acurious naturalist or anyone interested in animals won’t enjoy them, if only for trivial pursuits.

Eponyms are the proper names incorporated into many vernacular and scientific names, typically honoring a personfor their contributions to science, often for a body of work of great importance (e.g., Charles Darwin) but sometimes forfinancial support of a particular expedition, the provision of a permit, for collecting the specimen that became the typefor the species (or genus or subspecies), or simply for being a friend of the describer.

Although printed by different publishers, both books [The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles and The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians] are organized in the same fashion. After short introductions inwhich the authors discuss the format of each book, names of the persons honored are listed alphabetically (it is a “dictionary,” after all), followed by lists of taxa named for thatperson, with common (or vernacular) english name(s), scientific name(s), name(s) of the person(s) who first describedthe taxon, and the date of the original description. Alternative common names and scientific synonyms (different namesassigned to the same taxon) are included when necessary. A short biographical sketch of the honoree is then followed inthe amphibian book, when applicable, by a list of other nonamphibian taxa named for the person in question. Confusion is minimized by frequent cross-listings. Very short bibliographies complete each volume.

The authors reasonably avoid fossil species by not including any forms that became extinct before Columbus“discovered” America. Nevertheless, they list 2,668 names of amphibians and 4,130 names of reptiles honoring 1,609and 2,330 individual people, respectively — but the process proved to be “fraught with difficulties.” Despite avoidingdubious names (impossible to identify or simply incorrect), problems abounded. A few species are named for more thanone person, other names sound like those of people but are not, referring instead to places (often named for people, therefore the confusion), indigenous peoples, fictional characters,conservation groups, guerrilla armies, chartered accountants, and biblical or mythological references, not to mention a fewthat the authors were unable to identify.

Famous names abound. Charles Darwin is honored with the names of three amphibians (plus one that also honorsAlfred Wallace) and seven reptiles — plus two additional reptiles named for the port of Darwin in the northern territoryof Australia and four mammals and 23 birds. Edward Drinker Cope, for whom the journal Copeia is named and who mightbe better known for his role in the 19th-century “dinosaur wars” with rival Othneil C. Marsh, is honored with thenames of 19 amphibians and 59 reptiles. Most are vernacular names acknowledging him as the describer of those taxa.Doris Cochran, long-time curator of amphibians and reptiles at the national museum of natural history (SmithsonianInstitution) is honored with the names of 11 amphibians (including one genus) and nine reptiles. German naturalistWilhelm K. H. Peters is honored with 18 amphibians (and one honoring both him and James Peters, an American zoologist specializing in the Ecuadorian herpetofauna) and 39 reptiles (plus 23 mammals and two birds). German-born Britishzoologist Albert Günther is honored with 26 amphibians and 67 reptiles (plus three mammals and two birds), possiblythe most for any one person, although I did not count the entries for every person listed. E.H Taylor, of the Universityof Kansas and known mostly for his work in the Philippines and later in Mexico (using “marginally reliable vehicles”), ishonored with 20 amphibians and 29 reptiles (plus a mammal).

Examples of oddities include Hyla andersonii (Anderson’s treefrog), which is not named after a person at all, butinstead for the type locality of Anderson, south Carolina; Dendropsophus amicorum is the name of a treefrog ollectivelythanking all of the describer’s friends (amicorum means “of the friends”); and Pristimantis uisae is a “robber frog” namedfor the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Bucaramanga, Colombia. The bushmaster genus (Lachesis) is named for oneof the three Fates in Greek mythology, and stewart’s stickytoed Gecko (Hoplodactylus rakiurae) honors Rakiura nationalpark on Stewart Island, New Zealand.

Although an impossible task to include every possible namesake (and more are being added all the time),two omissions are notable. In 1988, Richard Thomas and S. Blair Hedges named the Martin Garcia Least Gecko(Sphaerodactylus ladae) after their rental car (a Russian-built lada), and in 1972, James (“skip”) Lazell described theAnguilla bank bush Anole (Anolis pogus). Assuming that the specific epithet was derived from the Greek pogus (= beard),many authorities (obviously including the authors) have used “bearded Anole” as the vernacular name, although no evidentcharacter is suggestive of a beard. In fact, Lazell named the lizard for pogo, Walt Kelly’s cartoon character of the longrunning American comic strip and probably best known forsaying: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Production quality is high for both books, but the list prices are substantial (especially for the reptile book).Fortunately, steep discounts available from volumesellers render them affordable — and worth the price. Do not fall preyto the inclination to set these volumes aside as dry and of use only to hardened academics. In unique fashion, they providean overview of distinguished herpetologists and a multitude of other people who have impacted our field. So, while scholars will exploit these books, readers can simply enjoy them.

Talking Naturally - Charlie Moores

EDA is probably not going to be a book that sells in high volume. It’s not illustrated, it’s written in a mostly straightforward and pithy way without flourish or extraneous comment, but this is still a wonderful book, because – in my humble opinion – while not many of us need to know that Karunaratne’s Narrow-mouthed Frog is named after a Sri Lankan zoologist and entomologist, I find it uplifting that Bo and the two Michaels have featured him and a whole world full of diligent, hard-working individuals (1,609 of them to be exact) in a book – and that Pelagic have backed the project and clearly worked hard to help present it in as readable way as possible.
Systematic Biology - David A. Morrison

I think that the authors are to be congratulated for theeffort that they have put into these books [Eponym Dictionaries], and for theapparent scrupulousness with which they have pursuedtheir goals. An immense amount of research has goneinto the work, tracking down obscure references andre-checking data from the original sources. ...

These are not books only for reference, but alsofor dipping into in moments of quiet contemplation,because there is a wealth of quirky information here.The biographies vary from amusing anecdotes to boringlists of technical achievements, presumably dependingon the available information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781907807411
  • Publisher: Pelagic Publishing Ltd
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Pages: 262
  • Sales rank: 1,223,584
  • Product dimensions: 6.69 (w) x 9.61 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Crombet-Beolens is known to all as Bo Beolens or as his online personae, the ‘Grumpy Old Birder’ and the ‘Fatbirder’. While much of his career was in community work and as the CEO of various charities, all his free time has been spent birding or otherwise pursuing his life-long interest in the natural world. Since the late 1990s he has had articles published in a variety of birding magazines in the UK and USA. He is co-author of three other ‘eponym dictionaries’ and has a book of memoirs in publication. He has also written for several disability publications.

Michael Watkins is a shipbroker who mainly concentrated on the tanker oil and chemical markets and worked in London for 45 years. No longer active in the business, he is still associated with it as a tutor and part of the examining process for the industry's professional body, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. Since retiring from the City, he has had more time for birding, travelling and grandchildren-minding, but never quite enough.

Michael Grayson spent most of his working life at the British Library, London. His childhood fascination with reptiles and amphibians never left him (much to his parents’ chagrin). His chief interests are vertebrate taxonomy and nomenclature, and the captive husbandry of exotic species. He is a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London.

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