200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 108: “Named in Honor of... ”

« Manatawny Creek Dam Removal

Migrations »

Robert M. Peck looking a specimen of a frog named after him
Academy Fellow Robert M. Peck examines a type specimen of Eleutherodactylus pecki, a rainforest frog that was named in his honor by herpetologist William Duellman in 1988. Bob collected this new species while on the Academy's 1983 Cutucú Expedition to southeastern Ecuador.

Named in Honor of...

Biologists name new species of plants, animals, and other organisms using a system called binomial nomenclature. Formal rules dictate the creation of these binomial names, which are more popularly known as “scientific names” or “Latin names.” For example, they contain two parts (genus and species) and must be treated grammatically as if they were Latin phrases.  Widely adopted conventions also contribute to the naming of new species. The place where the new species was discovered often finds its way into the name. For instance, Daniel Otte named a new cricket, Trigonidium mauiensis, after its home, the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Another popular convention is to name the species after an individual. Many of the prominent naturalists and scientists who have worked at the Academy, including Edward Drinker Cope, Henry Weed Fowler, Joseph Leidy, Thomas Nuttall, Daniel Otte, Henry Agustus Pilsbry, Charles Reimer, Thomas Say, and Alfred Schuyler, have species named after them. Individuals who contributed to the discovery of new species but who are not themselves scientists also have received this honor. A new frog from Ecuador was named after its collector, Academy Fellow Robert M. Peck, while Academy paleontologist Ted Daeschler named an early tetrapod, Densignathus rowei, after a volunteer co-worker, and his most famous discovery, Tiktaalik roseae, after a benefactor who provided crucial financial support. More recently, Academy ichthyologist Mark Sabaj Pérez named a new catfish, Rhinodoras gallagheri, in honor of a retired mailroom supervisor for “his many years of dedicated service to the global community of taxonomists and systematists in handling the shipping and receiving of countless loans of biological specimens.”

Find a real example of species naming in the Academy’s recent history.

Plan your visit, check out our new exhibits, and find out about upcoming activities.
Discover the past and explore the future of the natural sciences in our online exhibits.
Make a difference, browse our programs, and get involved with the natural world.