Extra extra: Read All About Tautonyms

If you’re active on #sciencetwitter, you may have seen a thread recently about tautonyms. “Tautonym” is a cool word for scientific names where the genus and species are the same word, For example, Vulpes vulpes is the scientific name for the red fox.

I have taken great delight in sharing these tautonyms with friends, colleagues, and random strangers on the bus. However, the problem that I keep having is that people want more details about something than the name. If you’ve had that problem, too, then this blog is for you.

Gallus gallus, the red junglefowl, is native to Southern Asia and was first domesticated about 5,000 years ago. It is rumored to taste like chicken. Photo credit: Philip Pikart
Bubo bubo, the Eurasian eagle-owl, is one of the largest species of owl, with a wingspan of up to 188cm (6’2″). A number of subspecies have been described, including B. bubo bubo. Photo credit: Peter Trimming
Boops boops, the fish so nice they booped it twice, is a type of seabream found in the Atlantic Ocean. I’m obligated to tell you that it’s pronounced BO-ops, but you are not obligated to listen. Photo credit: Lmbuga
Extra extra is a tiny sea snail found along the coast of Madagascar and originally described by French zoologist Félix Pierre Jousseaume. He created this portrait of E. extra in 1894.
Mola mola, the sunfish, was long thought to be the world’s largest plankton because of its apparent inability to swim against the current. More recent study has shown that it can swim, and is thus not plankton (rather, it is nekton). Adult sunfish weigh up to 1,000kg. Photo credit: U.S. NOAA
Velella velella, commonly referred to as the “by-the-wind sailor”, is actually a colony of many tiny hydrozoans. They have stinging cells called nematocysts that they use to catch prey. Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Anableps anableps, the four-eyed fish, does not actually have four eyes. It has two eyes, each of which is split into two lobes that have separate pupils. Photo credit: Quartl
Meles meles, the European badger, is the most social type of badger. They live in complex dens called setts which are passed on from generation to generation. Photo credit: kallerna.

I encourage you to explore more tautonyms; Gorilla gorilla, Lutra lutra, perhaps even Nycticorax nycticorax. It’s a fun excuse to learn something neat.

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Julia worked as Science Writer at Promega before returning to UW-Madison to go back to the lab bench. She earned a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in chemistry from University of North Carolina Wilmington, and a PhD from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her hobbies include reading fantasy novels, playing Magic: The Gathering, ultimate frisbee, Netflix, and long walks to the fridge.

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