What does Rostanga pulchra mean?

February 23, 2003
From: Brendan

What does rostanga pulchra mean in English?


Brendan, 2003 (Feb 23) What does Rostanga pulchra mean?. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/9262

Dear Brendan,
This sounds like a question a teacher has given the class. Rostanga pulchra is the scientific name of a nudibranch. It doesn't have a meaning. I guess you would be puzzled if someone asked you what 'brendan' meant in English, just as I would if someone asked me what 'bill' meant. It doesn't mean anything - it's our names!

We give animals and plants scientific names so that everyone in the world uses the same name for the same animal. For example, there must be a 1000 names for a lion in different languages around the world, but when biologists call it by its scientific name, Panthera leo, they all know what they are talking about. Under a set of international rules, scientific names are made either from Ancient Greek or Latin words, or if words from modern languages are used, they have to be 'latinised'. Scientific names can be made from existing words, or they can just be made up. I am not sure whether Rostanga is a made up word. Sometimes names of ancient gods and mythical characters are used. However, pulchra is from a Latin word meaning pretty. I named another species of Rostanga, Rostanga bassia, because it came from a place called Bass Strait, and there is another species called Rostanga arbutus, because arbuta refers to the cherry, and the species is cherry red. However this doesn't mean that Rostanga arbutus means the 'cherry red Rostanga' or that Rostanga bassia means the 'Bass Strait Rostanga'. It just shows how scientists make up new names.

Some books have English 'translations' alongside scientific names. These are silly, and often don't make sense and are certainly NOT the meaning of the scientific names. They don't need a meaning - they are names. I hope you have an interesting class discussion at school.
Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2003 (Feb 23). Comment on What does Rostanga pulchra mean? by Brendan. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/9262

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