New names for British wildlife species


Sacculina carcini

Sacculina carcini now also known as the crab hacker barnacle (photo credit: Hans Hillewaert).

It’s often said that it’s all in a name and when you are a wildlife species without a popular or common name you can sometimes fall out of view with the public. Now 10 British species have been given a common name to go alongside their formal latin names.

The new names were announced today by Natural England. The names were chosen following a competition asking the public to send in their suggestions. The judging panel consisted of  Dr Peter Brotherton, Natural England’s Head of Profession for Biodiversity; Dr Keith Hiscock, Associate Fellow at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth; George Monbiot, author and Guardian columnist; and Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.

It’s hoped that the new common names will help the general public to appreciate – and remember – species that had only previously been known by  its formal scientific name.

The overall winner of the competition was Aporus unicolor. This is a parasitic wasp that breaks into the burrow of the purse web spider, paralyses the spider and then uses the still living body to lay its eggs into.  A fascinating insect but with no common name it could easily slid into obscurity in the eye of the public. It’s new common name is, fittingly, the cutpurse wasp.

Matt Shardlow said: “Each of these animals is a small miracle, from the solar-powered sea slug that adopts bits of the plants it eats so it can turn the sun’s energy into food, to the cutpurse wasp with her skilled assassination of purse-web spiders in their underground lairs. People should be on first name terms with these little beauties, and now they can be”.

George Monbiot said: “We looked for names which were both functional and delightful, and I hope people will agree that we found some great examples. Ten more species now have memorable and evocative names, which, I hope, will mean that they are more likely to be valued and protected.”

The full list of new common names are:

  • Royal flush sea slug (Akera bullata): Sea slug that escapes by flapping and exuding purple ink.
  • Cutpurse wasp (Aporus unicolor): A spider-hunting wasp
  • Corrugated scarab (Brindalus porcicollis): A shiny grooved scarab
  • Spiny mudlark (Brissopsis lyrifera): Spiny urchin in the mud
  • Solar-powered sea slug (Elysia viridis): Photosynthesising sea slug
  • Elusive knapweed bee (Halictus eurygnathus): A lost bee of the South Downs
  • Clockface anemone (Peachia cylindrica): 12-tentacled lurker in the sand
  • Wannabee fly (Pocota personata): Hoverfly disguised as a bumblebee
  • Semaphore fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus): A glittering green fly which waves its white tips to attract mates
  • Crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini): A parasitic barnacle that takes over its crab host

There’s some really cracking names that have been invented by the public and everyone is sure to have their own favourites though it’s hard to choose from such distinguished and descriptive names. The stand out ones for me have to be Spiny mudlark and crab hacker barnacle.

Keith Hiscock added: “The winners have suggested names that help to ‘tell a story’ about the biology or appearance of a species which will, hopefully, be memorable and informative to those who enjoy peering into rockpools or peeping under boulders on the seashore or who get into the water snorkelling or diving.”

Peter Brotherton concluded: “Species extinctions don’t just happen in rainforests, they also occur in the UK. These losses matter and often involve species that are unknown and unloved. This competition attracted entries from thousands of people of all ages, showing the real interest that exists in all of England’s wildlife, from sea slugs to spiders. These species have new names that resonate and delight, giving me real hope that they will become better known and have a bright future.”

This was the third year of the competition organised by Natural England. It was inspired by a report that said nearly 500 species had slowly slid into extinction in the last 200 years.

External sites:

Natural England.

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