Readers’ wildlife photos: Humorous titles of science papers

January 30, 2023 • 8:15 am

Well, there aren’t any photos today (I have about a week’s worth, but am conserving them), but we do have science—in the form of weird titles of scientific papers. Athayde Tonhasca Júnior sent this collection with a brief intro:

Perhaps your readers would be amused by scientists being witty or mischievous (sometimes unintentionally), with varied degrees of success.

Any notes are mine. Click titles to enlarge them.

Oy, the citation!

More citation humor:

I presume this acronym was deliberate:


23 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos: Humorous titles of science papers

  1. Entertaining. Some of these titles remind me of the titles that creative high schoolers give to their annual science & engineering fair projects. In the midst of a hectic morning of project judging, these clever titles always brought a smile to my face.

  2. Two of my favorite humorous titles from systematic biology are “What, if anything, is a rabbit?” (A.E. Wood. 1957. Evolution 11:417-425.) and “Aha, a new genus of Australian Sphecidae, and revised key to the world genera of the tribe Miscophini (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae, Larrinae)” (A.S. Menke, Polskie Pismo Entomologiczne 47:671–681.)


    1. I think I’ve shared this one with our host before.

      “Donald H. Les & Kurt Schwenk. 1995. Para-fuckin-phyletic: A compromise category for classification. Systematic Botany 20(2): 165–411.”

      Not a real paper (it’s one page long, not hundreds of pages), but a mock-up of a Systematic Botany article. It was meant as a joke but circulated as a PDF among people like me with a juvenile sense of humour. It took on a viral life of it’s own but Don Les later regretted it as a little too vulgar.

  3. My sadly-late colleague Roger Hendrix loved to come up with titles like this. He also came up with a genetic unit called a moron.

    And then my PhD advisor collaborated with an MD named Hawley, and had a grad student named MacKerell. But we could never legitimately get them on the same paper together.

  4. And then I remember sitting in the library and coming across a paper by this guy (1st au) when I was a grad student. I started to turn to a fellow grad student and say, “Get a load of this guy’s name,” but stopped when I realized that I was turning to Jerry Bagel.

  5. I love these. Despite trying a few times with what a I thought were catchy titles, I was never able to prod a journal editor into having a sense of humor.

  6. The humor might be a bit obscure to a general audience, but I think readers of this site will get the joke:

    “A Candide response to Panglossian accusations by Randolph and Dobson: biodiversity buffers disease”

  7. The “Knox, Knox, Hoose, Zare” paper was a parody article instigated by Dick Zare and published on April 1, 1990, which apparently most folks didn’t catch. He personally approached the co-authors and asked them to participate.

    A while back, I published a paper on Sn/OH chemistry and included all isotopes of hydrogen. The last time I checked, it was the only paper in Chemical Abstracts that came up when you searched for SnOT. Life has been downhill ever since.

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