Fish genus named after Dawkins

July 13, 2012 • 5:15 am

In a new paper in Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters by Rohan Pethiyagoda et al., the authors have named a new genus of fish, containing four identified species, after Richard Dawkins.  They are cyprinids, a family of fish that includes carps and minnows. Here’s a drawing and their phylogeny:

And the authors’ rationale for the genus name:

I wonder if this now officially qualifies him to be a Gender Traitor™.

69 thoughts on “Fish genus named after Dawkins

  1. I wonder if that will eliminate his status as a Gender Traitor.

    On the contrary, it will only make it possible in the first place for him to be that. Heretofore he was just a Privileged White Male. Good for him! 🙂

  2. It is amazing to me how short & yet detailed a paper they have produced. I bet that was a lot of work! Congratulations to the Dawkinsia genus! Coming to an aquarium near you no doubt –
    “The striking coloration of many species of Puntius has also led to their popularity as freshwater-aquarium fishes;
    many species are traded internationally as ornamentals (Collins et al., 2012).”

    1. It probably won’t get into the aquarium trade. There are already about three different species of aquarium fish that look like this new one, including P.tetrazona, the tiger barb.

      I highly recommend small cyprinids to anyone wanting to breed egg laying fish for the first time. T. albonubes is probably the easiest, even easier than zebrafish in my experience. Quite colorful too.

        1. Actually, the “T” stands for Tanichthys “Tan’s fish”. One of its discoverers was a Chinese scoutmaster named Tan. The white cloud mountain minnow is believed to be extinct in its original range. It’s quite popular in the aquarium trade, and has gone feral outside its home range.

          1. I meant your name “bacopa”…
            I have some Bacopa monnieri in my balcony tank…


            the Tanichthys, where some of my first fish in childhood…

      1. Most of the species in the paper have been previously described and some are already in the aquarium trade, especially the one formerly known as Puntius filamentosus, filament barb or blackspot barb.

        The new genera described in the paper may also affect the classification of other known species, since the authors only looked at species from India and Sri Lanka so far. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to publish a taxonomic revision of a widespread group based on a limited geographic sample, but maybe the authors are working on expanding it.

  3. Reminds me of a lovely story about the great W D Hamilton. He was up the Amazon with his colleague Peter Henderson and was stung by a wasp. “Can you identify that wasp, Bill?” Peter asked. “Er, yes, actually I can” replied Bill, in his most gloomy Eeyore tones. “As a matter of fact, it’s named after me.”

        1. I have a feeling you may not be taking the concerns of Very Concerned People seriously enough.

          1. If by “Very Concerned People” you mean “people who have reported being sexually assaulted by her husband,” then yes, I’d say that articulett is being rather dismissive.

            1. Yes, by all means let’s play Saddle Others’ Posts With An Interpretation That Allows Me To Feel Superior To Them.

              Having said that, I’m actually in favour of a Don’t Feed policy.

            2. Oh my can we have a policy to deal with that? Why yes we can, it’s called the law, you know that big policy that puts people in front of actual judges and through an actual system that isn’t perfect but for the most part works.

              Unless of course you are conflating what you don’t like with what is illegal, and you want a pet policy of dislikes, so you spew hyperbole about actual illegalities

              1. Dr. Coyne has a policy here that says ‘don’t insult other commenters’. It is not illegal to insult other commenters. Nevertheless, I am willing to follow his policy, despite the fact that I think you are richly deserving of a variety of insults.
                See how it works?

    1. Prof Dawkins i strongly support you being honoured in this way, and i strongly support the right to give hugs. Problem?

          1. Also I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that nobodies mentioned ‘Eric the half of bee’ here.

    2. How typically modest to deflect the attention onto someone else!

      Congrats on the fish-babies..the River of Eden memes is flowing through you


  4. Very appropriate, nicely done.

    “I wonder if this now officially qualifies him to be a Gender Traitor™.”

    Uh oh. I’m gonna step out for a sec to slip into my trusty NXP 3000.

  5. *reads last line*

    Admit it: You’re just jelly of those blog post with 500+ comments and you want one here too! 😛

  6. “I wonder if this now officially qualifies him to be a Gender Traitor™.”

    If you’re going to be neutral (or pretend to be), then be neutral.

    This passive sniping from the sidelines is not helpful.

    1. It’s almost as if what you’re alluding to were a war in which there are ‘sides’, on one of which anyone even mentioning the matter in passing must immediately join the fighting. Jerry is obviously grown-up enough to reject that as utterly petty and childish thinking. And supremely unhelpful, since you brought it up.

      1. As if you didn’t already allude to taking sides with your response to articulett, above, about the “concerns of Very Concerned People”.

        Don’t be a hypocrite, Peter. It’s unseemly.

        1. [ ] You are able to recognise the difference between pointing out a ridiculous idea and dividing the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’.

      1. That too. But every dogmatically held belief has at least one holy cow that it is sacriligious to ridicule—because that would be a devastatingly effective way of exposing its irrationality. So don’t get your hopes too high.

    1. I’m not sure if filament barbs are always exactly the same species pictured here. Not too many stores have them around here and I’ve only ever seen them a couple of times.

      If this fish is already in the trade, congrats to whoever has been breeding them. I may give it a try myself.

  7. …and thanks for all the fishes Richard.

    The “gender feminine” just must be part of her latest conciousness raising campaign.

  8. Actually, several of these fishes are aquarium favourites. D filamentosa, previously known as Barbus filoamentosus, has been a popular mid-sized aquarium Barb for something like 70 years. Or, at least, something resembling this species has been popular – there’s been a lot of question marks attached to the exact taxonomic identity of aquarium Threadfin/Sailfin Barbs, with some people regarding them as Arulius Barbs or Tambrapani Barbs.

    1. After doing a little research I have discovered that I have seen quite a few threadfin and filament barbs in the aquarium trade. But I can’t say I have seen this exact species, the species that caused the naming of a new genus.

      My current project is to breed domestic gold mollies with mollies I catch in the local native mollies I catch in the ditches of Houston. My hope is to create a strain of gold mollies that can resist freezing temperatures. It didn’t get cold enough last year whether I succeeded.

      I still breed white clouds. I have a 75 gal with a little direct sun and 4 48in warm daylight florescent tubes. My Bacopa plants were dying until I made two moist bog 10gal tanks next to it filled with sand, clay kitty litter, and a little peat moss. Once the bacopa could grow a land morph, the underwater morph perked up and sucked up enough nutrients that the hair algae died. This tank makes white clouds constantly, but larger numbers in the cooler months.

  9. As lead author of this paper, few quick points. We made the gender feminine for reasons of euphony, the -ia termination of the genus would thus rhyme with most Latinised feminine specific names, which usually end with -a. But of course RD deserves to be ribbed about this regardless. Also, these fishes will carry the common name “Dawkins Barbs”. Finally, they are actually quite different to Tiger Barbs (the paper discusses this; it is open access and can be downloaded from:

    Finally, anyone who would like to have a copyright-free high-resolution photo of Dawkinsia singhala, a Dawkins Barb endemic to Sri Lanka, is welcome to download this from my DropBox using the following link:

    As you will see, adult Dawkins Barbs do not resemble Tiger Barbs at all, and males have the trailing filaments from their dorsal fin, a prominent secondary sexual character that is, to my mind anyway, a way nicer example of the peacock’s tail than the peacock’s tail, if you know what I mean 🙂

    1. I had some trouble viewing the tiff file in my browser, so I created a png version of your wonderful photograph (Portable Netowork Graphics(png) is a lossless image format that is natively supported in modern browsers, so it would be more accessible that tiff for most reader. I have uploaded it here (with attribution, of course). If you would like me to take down the file, I would be glad to do so, but I’ll request that you consider replacing your tiff file with the png version at my link for the above mentioned accessibility reasons.

      Thanks for the paper, the responses, and last but not least, for the great photograph!

      1. Thanks so much for putting the image up in a popular format. I completely forgot that not everyone likes TIFF.

  10. okay, you guys all know that genders in languages aren’t sexes, right? ….maybe I’m just feeling peevish because the jokes here are all going right over my head

  11. I had a look at the paper that while discussion etymologies of the genus name, the authors always make a point of mentioning the gender of the constructed name. Why is this important? Is this to arbitrarily resolve at source usage disputes in languages like Hindi and (I think) German where every noun must have a (grammatical) gender?

    1. Yes, species names have to be Latin binomials, the genus and species agreeing in gender. Therefore when creating a new generic name taxonomists explicitly state the gender, and all species in that genus then need to be changed to match. In the present case, for example, what used to be Puntius filamentosus (masc.) is now Dawkinsia filamentosa (fem.).

      1. Thanks for the clarification, and I am thrilled to have it from (I presume) the author himself!

        I knew about the Binomial Latin nomenclature part , but I didn’t know gender was also important. I still think that this convention is probably based more in tradition rather than usage, since gender in languages with enforced grammatical gender is mostly assigned arbitrarily anyway. The only usage based reason I can think of is that the convention seeks to ensure that people writing their papers in such languages with mandatory grammatical gender for nouns (like Latin, German or Hindi) make the same uniform choice of gender in referring to a genus or species. 😀

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