Meaning of scientific names

Information, Taxonomy No Comments »

Scientific names are important for communicating specific species of tarantulas. As many people involved in the community know, there are many tarantulas with a common name of “red-knee,” “red-leg,” “earth-tiger,” etc. which can cause confusion as to the specific species to which one is referring. Another benefit of scientific names is that they cross languages–Acanthoscurria geniculata will be understood as a specific tarantula species by arachnologists and hobbyists alike in Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Korea, and the Philippines, as opposed to common names which are bound by language and even region. 

Around the 18th century, the naming system developed–binomial nomenclature (technically only used for plants, as binominal is used for zoology, but it is commonly accepted to use binomial with zoology nowadays). This two-part naming system includes the genus and species to distinguish each species within the genus. In the 19th century, a governing body developed in order to keep the scientific names in a consistent format with a series of codes and rules for describing each species: International Code of Zoological Nomenclature or ICZN. This body regulates:

  • How names are correctly established in the frame of binominal nomenclature
  • Which name must be used in case of name conflicts
  • How scientific literature must cite names

It does take a while to learn them, and there is a learning curve associated with learning scientific names, but many people do not realize that every genus and species name have meaning behind them. 

Most scientific name sources are either:

-Latin (e.g. Avicularia)

-Greek (e.g. Poecilotheria)

-Locale specific (such as area of species discovery, e.g. Aphonopelma madera (Madera Canyon, AZ)) 

-People (such as taxonomist, biologists, individuals who discovered species, naturalists, etc. e.g. Brachypelma smithi or Psednocnemis jeremyhuffi)

-Other languages (e.g. genus Nhandu or Tliltocatl


Here are some elements of scientific names using both Latin and Greek roots:

  • acantho: “thorn,” from ancient Greek ἄκανθος (ákanthos)
  • albo: “white,” from Latin albus
  • aphono: “silent,” from ancient Greek ἄφωνος (áphōnos)
  • auratum: “golden,” from Latin
  • Avicularia: “bird-catcher,” from Latin aviculārius
  • brachy: “short,” from ancient Greek βρᾰχῠ́ς (brăkhŭ́s)
  • centro: “spike,” from ancient Greek κέντρον (kéntron)
  • cephalus: “head,” from ancient Greek κεφαλή (kephalḗ)
  • cerato: “horn” or “horned,” from ancient Greek κέρας (kéras)
  • chalco: “copper” or “brass,” from ancient Greek χαλκός (khalkόs)
  • chilo/chilus: “lip,” from ancient Greek χεῖλος (kheĩlos)
  • chromato: “color,” from ancient Greek χρῶμα (khrō̃ma)
  • cyaneo: “deep blue,” from Latin
  • dolicho: “long,” from ancient Greek δολῐχός (dolĭkhόs)
  • ephebo: “youthful,” from ancient Greek ἔφηβος (éphēbos)
  • eu: “good,” from ancient Greek εὖ (eũ)
  • fasciata: “banded,” from Latin
  • grammo: “lined” or “striped,” from ancient Greek γραμμοποίκιλος (grammopoíkilos)
  • gyrus: “circle,” from ancient Greek γῦρος (gũros)
  • haplo: “simple” or “single,” from ancient Greek ᾰ̔πλόος (ă̔plόos)
  • hetero: “different” or “other,” from ancient Greek ἕτερος (héteros)
  • holo: “whole” or “complete,” from ancient Greek ὅλος (hólos)
  • idio: “distinct” or “peculiar,” from ancient Greek ἴδιος (ídios)
  • laeta: “happy,” from Latin
  • lividum: “blue or leaden in color,” from Latin
  • maculatus/maculata: “stained” or “spotted,” from Latin
  • metallica: “metallic,” from Latin
  • minax: “threatening” or “menacing,” from Latin
  • mira/miranda: “marvelous,” from Latin
  • mono: “one,” from ancient Greek μόνος (mόnos)
  • murinus: “mouselike” or “mouse-grey,” from Latin
  • neo: “new,” from ancient Greek νέος (néos)
  • ornata: “ornate,” from Latin
  • pelma: “sole (of the foot),” from ancient Greek πέλμᾰ (pélmă)
  • pes/pus: “foot,” from Latin
  • pilosum: “hairy” or “haired,” from Latin
  • plumi: “feather,” from Latin
  • poda: “foot” or “leg,” from ancient Greek πούς (poús)
  • poecilo: “spotted” or “variegated,” from ancient Greek ποικῐ́λος (poikĭ́los)
  • psalmo: “psalm” or “song,” from ancient Greek ψαλμός (psalmόs)
  • ptero: “wing” or “feather,” from ancient Greek πτερόν (pterόn)
  • pubescens: “hairy,” from Latin
  • pulcher/pulchra: “beautiful,” from Latin
  • purpurea: “purple,” from Latin
  • regalis: “regal” or “kingly,” from Latin
  • rosea: “rose-colored,” from Latin
  • scurria: “clownish?” from Latin scurra
  • stola: “clothing,” from ancient Greek στολᾱ́ (stolā)
  • striata/striatum: “striped” or “grooved,” from Latin
  • thele: “teat” or “nipple,” from ancient Greek θηλή (thēlḗ)
  • theria: “beast,” from ancient Greek θηρίον (thēríon)
  • thrixo: “hair,” from ancient Greek θρῐ́ξ (thrĭ́x)
  • urticans: “having nettles (urticating hairs),” from Latin
  • vagans: “wandering,” from Latin
  • versicolor: “multicolored,” from Latin

The first part of the name, which identifies the genus, must be a word which can be treated as a Latin singular noun in the nominative case. It must be unique within the purview of each nomenclatural code.

The second part of the name, which identifies the species within the genus, is also treated grammatically as a Latin word. It can have one of a number of forms:

  • The second part of a binomial may be an adjective. The adjective must agree with the genus name in gender. Latin has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter, shown by varying endings to nouns and adjectives. The skeleton-leg tarantula has the binomial name Ephebopus murinus. Here “murinus” simply means the adjective “mouse-like” both endings agreeing in masculine. The name for the Brazilian black tarantula,  Grammostola pulchra (“pulchra” meaning beautiful) , agrees in feminine endings of the words. The Mexican species Cyclosternum palomeranum, described by Rick C. West in 2000, has both nominative neuter endings for genus and species. Cyclosternum is the only genus of tarantula that has a nominative neuter ending thus far. Some common endings for Latin adjectives in the three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) are -us, -a, -um (as in the previous example of murinus); -is, -is, -e (e.g. tristis, meaning “sad”); and -or, -or, -us (e.g. minor, meaning “smaller”). For further information, look up Latin declension of adjectives.
  • The second part of a binomial may be a noun in the nominative case. An example is the binomial name of the Texas tan tarantula, which is Aphonopelma anax. The species name being Greek for “tribal chief” or “military leader.” Grammatically the noun is said to be in apposition to the genus name and the two nouns do not have to agree in gender; in this case, Aphonopelma is feminine and anax is masculine.
  • The second part of a binomial may be a noun in the genitive (possessive) case. The genitive case is constructed in a number of ways in Latin, depending on the declension of the noun. Common endings for masculine and neuter nouns are -ii or -i in the singular (Brachypelma hamorii) and -orum (Birupes simoroxigorum) in the plural, and for feminine nouns -ae (Avicularia merianae) in the singular and -arum (e.g. Euathlus tenebrarum) in the plural. 

Whereas the first part of a binomial name must be unique within the purview of each nomenclatural code, the second part is quite commonly used in two or more genera (e.g. murinus in both genera Pterinochilus and Ephebopus ). The full binomial name must be unique within each code. Because the species names that are adjectival agree with the genus name, it’s important for them to have adjectival agreement with the genus. This means when there is a new description paper published and a species is redescribed into another genus (e.g. Brachypelma albopilosum was redescribed as Tliltocatl albopilosus) sometimes the Latin suffix of the species name will change as well to agree with with genus change.


Maybe knowing more about these scientific names will have you noticing different features of your tarantulas, or may remind you of the regions they come from or people that described them.




Selenocosmia zhangzhengi description

Description, Information, Taxonomy No Comments »
Selenocosmia zhangzhengi

Selenocosmia zhangzhengi

A new species of the genus Selenocosmia (Ausserer, 1871) has been described in the southeastern coast of China. Selenocosmia zhangzhengi named after Mr. Zheng Zhang who collected the type material in situ (Fujian providence).


Males of S.zhangzhengi sp. n. can be distinguished by the absence of long, white setae on the tibia and metatarsus of the legs , the tip of the embolus is at an obtuse angle in S.zhangzhengi and small ventral lamina are absent on the distal embolus which differentiates it as a new sp altogether.

Females of S.zhangzhengi sp. n. can be differentiated by the straight spermathecae and the ratio of the length of the spermathecae to the distance between the spermathecae as it’s almost 2–3:1.


Retreats in burrows made in soil mixed with gravel, the burrows are usually about 3 to 4 cm in diameter. The spider web extends 10 to 20 cm inwards from the burrow. The spider moults inside. At night, the spider waits at the mouth of the burrow for its prey to pass by.


As things are settling back to some sort of normalcy, there will be more and more revisions and descriptions happening in the arachnid world. Taxonomists are working hard around the world and it shows as more and more papers come out to the public. As always, when in doubt do not mix hobby species and labels with taxonomy paperwork.

Full paper can be read here



Tapinauchenius revision

Information, Psuedoclamoris, Revision, Tapinauchenius, Taxonomy No Comments »
Tapinuachenius rasti by Tom Patterson

Tapinuachenius rasti by Tom Patterson

As 2018 is rolling to an end we find ourselves with another big taxonomic revision of a genus.  The genera of Tapinauchenius (Ausserer, 1871) as well as Psalmopoeus (Pocock, 1895) have never been reviews or revised before, even though new species have been described in recent years. (As early as 2014 by Jorge Mendoza – Psalmopoeus victori)

So what does this all mean to you?

Well…Quite a bit. Through extensive research Martin Hüsser, was able to revise and also re-describe the following tarantulas:

Tapinauchenius sp Colombia (A new species from the Amazon region) is now Pseudoclamoris burgessi

Tapinauchenius gigas is now Psuedoclamoris gigas

Tapinauchenius elenae is now Psuedoclamoris elenae

Tapinauchenius sp Union Island is now Tapinauchenius rasti

Tapinauchenius sanctivicenti is now Tapinauchenius polybotes

Tap subcaeruleus is now nomen dubium (meaning there is not enough accurate data to precisely describe or confirm this species)

In addition to all of this, the genera/Subfamily Psalmoponinae has been revised to include the following genus families; Ephebopus, Psalmopoeus, Psuedoclamoris and Tapinauchenius.

Why you ask?

The way Psalmponinae is diagnosed is based on molecular and morphological phylogenies. Which you can look at as a family tree where your great-grandparents are the same relatives as your distant cousins.

Though for some of you it may be annoying to have to remake labels and re-learn new nomenclature, its definitely the right thing to do. Taxonomy long ago was nowhere near as specific and precise as it is today. Hence why so much has been placed in the wrong genera or simply left undescribed. When a genus gets moved or changed to a new genus it just means it was never meant to be in that old genus to begin with. There has never been a better time to be part of the hobby.


Full revision article can be found here