Sharks: An Eponym Dictionary - Pelagic Publishing

Sharks: An Eponym Dictionary

  • Delves into the fascinating origins of 1,577 species names
  • Co-author well-known in the birding world as as the ‘Fatbirder’
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    • dictionary
    • elasmobranch
    • eponym
    • ichthyology
    • marine biology
    • shark
    • taxonomy


    This fascinating reference book delves into the origins of the vernacular and scientific names of sharks, rays, skates and chimeras. Each entry offers a concise biography, revealing the hidden stories and facts behind each species’ name.

    Full of interesting facts and humorous titbits, the authors’ extensive research and detective work has made this book a comprehensive source of knowledge on everyone associated with the naming of a species. A fascinating resource for anyone with an interest in sharks, from curious naturalist to professional ichthyologist, it is an essential addition to the library of anyone wishing to satisfy those tickling questions on the mysteries behind the names.

    Sometimes a name refers not to a person but to a fictional character or mythological figure. Eptatretus eos is named after the Greek goddess of the dawn in reference to the pink colouring of the hagfish. The Chilean Roundray Urotrygon cimar, named after Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología in honour of its 20th anniversary, and the Angular Angelshark Squatina Guggenheim, named after the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, are both named after institutions. The Whiteleg Skate Amblyraja taaf is just a shorthand way of describing a toponym – Territoire des Terres australes et antarctiques françaises. There are also entries which are light-hearted such as the one for a lady who told us"that decoration of her cakes have included roughtail skate Bathyraja trachura, red abalone Haliotis rufescens, and chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha."

    Following the success of their previous Eponym Dictionaries, the authors have joined forces to give the Elasmobranch group of fishes a similar treatment but they have also included the describers and authors of the original descriptions of the fishes involved, in addition to those names that are, or appear to be, eponyms.

    They have tracked down some 850 names of living as well as dead people. Of these half are eponyms after people who have fish named after them and may also have described a fish or fishes. The other half are ichthyologists, marine biologists and other scientists who have become involved in the description and naming of sharks, rays, skates and chimeras. For each person mentioned there is brief, pithy biography. Additionally there are some 50 entries for what sound like eponyms but turned out not to have any connection to a person, such as the Alexandrine Torpedo is named after the city in Egypt and not Alexander the Great.

    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 1,577 fishes are listed.


    Naturalists, taxonomists, marine biologists


    • Scientists interested in the origins of species names in general and sharks in particular will relish Sharks: An Eponym Dictionary, with its attention to covering the vernacular and scientific names of sharks and their relatives. More than just a word origin guide, it expands each entry to include stories and facts behind each name, adding describers and authors of the original descriptions alongside names that appear to be eponyms. Now, one would think the audience for this book would be limited to scientists alone; but in fact any reader with an interest in word origins - especially those harboring a special interest in natural history - will also find it accessible, pairing an in-depth survey of shark words with inclusion of these involved in naming a species. —Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
    • Sharks: An Eponym Dictionary would be an exceptional addition to any science collection, including STEM subjects at an academic library (community college or university). The format of Sharks provides readers with a framework of the naming of species and is a unique work that covers taxa and history. —Danielle Colbert-Lewis, Reference Reviews

    About the Author

    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.

    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 five other Eponym Dictionaries and recently authored a book of anecdotes, The A–Z of Birds: A Birder’s Tales from Around the World. He has also written for several disability publications.

    Bibliographic Information

    • 230 pages
    • BISAC SCI070010, NAT020000, SCI087000, REF008000, NAT037000, NAT012000