We have before considered species with binomial nomenclature I consider “adorable” (applying very rigorous standards for evaluation, of course). Now, let’s take a look at the more terrifying and impressive of the natural world. What are some species whose scientific names just perfectly capture their awesomeness?
1. Ursus maritimus
“Maritime bear.” Aka, the Polar Bear – the largest and most dangerous bear on earth. Oh yes, and it’s also a seafaring monster because why not add that to its killer repertoire?
2. Sequoia sempervirens
The Marines have Semper Fi for always faithful; sempervirens means “always alive.” What a name for this “eternal,” evergreen tree, the tallest living thing on the plant (ever, so including dinosaurs and blue whales and all that). A stroll through a forest of old-growth Coastal Redwoods is sure to evoke a hushed, cathedral sort of vibe. The same could be said for family member Sequioadendron giganteum – Giant Sequioa – the most massive living thing on the planet (ever), which never quite reaches the Redwood’s height but surpasses it in breadth.
3. Architeuthis dux
It’s name means Chief Leader of Squid (think “archetype” from “arch,” and “Duke” from “dux”). And it should, because this species is likely the inspiration for literature and legend on Krakens. The Giant Squid can grow up to forty feet long, a fitting feature for Norse mythology. Alfred Lord Tennyson even has a sonnet dedicated to the monster (well, the mythical one, but isn’t the real thing just as terrifying?)
4. Nepenthes rajah
The pitcher plant is a tropical, carnivorous plant. This species goes way beyond the more familiar Venus Fly Trap, as it can trap and kill animals as large as a lizard.
And the name captures this. Yes, its trap is shaped like a pitcher; Nepenthes is a reference to a drink provided by old-school doctors, back when opium and bloodletting counted as medical treatment. Nepenthe means “to forget suffering,” and is used to refer to drugs or magical potions in literature as old as the Odyssey. It’s also referenced by America’s favorite Gothic poet, author of The Raven:
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerEdgar Allan Poe
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
5. Ophiophagus hannah
I recently discovered that this is the scientific name of the King Cobra, the largest venomous snake on the planet. My name is Hannah, so I am unwaveringly convinced of the epicness of this nomenclature. King Cobras are the largest venomous snakes in the world, and the only snakes known to guard their nests.
Although I must add, “ophiophagus” literally means “snake eater” so that certainly adds a whole new element of horror.
As long as we’re talking about snakes, Naja naja takes a close second for the Indian Cobra (and one of the “Big Four” in India.)