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Nutty Nomenclature

Nutty Nomenclature

All species of organism are given their own specific name by the taxonomist who first describes them.  Every now and again the taxonomists allow themselves to have a little bit of fun.  This is our guide to some more mischievously named species.

Abra cadabra

Don’t get it? You might think abracadabra is a word made up by modern magicians but in fact it was used in ancient times as an incantation against fever.

What is it?
It's a not-particularly-magical fossilised seashell. Being a bivalve, related to cockles, mussels and scallops, it had a shell in two-parts which was a pearly white colour. Sadly it was so unmagical that it got renamed Theora mesopotamia.

Where’s it found? It used to live in the seas of the Middle East. Specimens have been uncovered near Basrah in Southern Iraq.

When was it first named? 1956.

Who deserves the credit? Dr Frank Eames, who worked for British Petroleum (BP), and G. L. Wilkins. The only thing we know about poor old Wilkins is that he died before Abra cadabra was officially named. Maybe the excitement did for him.

Theora lubrica is a very similar species to the, now extinct, Abra cadabra.Is there a picture? Only a very grainy effort that we found in the original scientific paper. However, it would have looked pretty similar to its modern day cousin, Theora lubrica (click image to enlarge). Another genus closely related to Abra cadabra is called Semelina, which is a little too close to school dinners for our liking.

Coming soon in Nutty Nomenclature
: Pieza rhea and Heerz lukenatcha.

Monday: Phunny Phobias
Wednesday: Doctor Doctor
Thursday: Peculiar Periodicals
Friday: End of week timewasters

Image: N/CalAcademy

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