Fish genus named after Dawkins

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™.


  1. Peter Beattie
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    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. whyevolutionistrue
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Yes, indeed, and I’ve changed my remark to reflect that!

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Which is now missing a word. 😉

  3. gbjames
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink


  4. Dominic
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    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).”

    • bacopa
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      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.

      • MM
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        aha ! someone named after a genus of popular
        plant in aquaristic

        • bacopa
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          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.

          • MM
            Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

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


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

      • windy
        Posted July 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        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.

  5. Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    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.”

    • gbjames
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      I would recommend that you keep your fingers out of the aquarium water! 😉

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Question is, can I get conveniently bitten by your fish? 🙂

      • articulett
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        Not without a signed consent form.

        • Peter Beattie
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

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

          • Screechy Monkey
            Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

            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.

            • Peter Beattie
              Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

              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.

              • Sigmund
                Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

                Won’t someone think of the children!!

            • za-zen
              Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

              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

              • chascpeterson
                Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

                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?

      • Filippo
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps you’d rather have your toes nibbled? 😉

    • Za-zen
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

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

      • Island Adolescent
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Problem would be your obtuseness.

    • articulett
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      Congratulations– way cooler than a wasp!
      (But not as cool as the frog named after Jerry.)

    • articulett
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      But then again– you get a whole genus named after you– Coyne just has a species.

      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Rohan Pethiyagoda et al. were being generous.

    • Mary - Canada
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Congrats Dr. D!

    • David Leech
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      To be fair here, W D Hamilton is a bloody stupid name for a wasp. No wonder it got mad:-)

      • Filippo
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        In the Appalachian south, a wasp is a “wasper.”

        • David Leech
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Any particular reason or do they just like to be different?

          • David Leech
            Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

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

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      That story doesn’t sound nearly as fishy as yours. =^_^=

    • shakyisles
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      How typically modest to deflect the attention onto someone else!

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


  6. TGC
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Pure gen(i)us.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Better than specious.

  7. darrelle
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    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.

  8. Posted July 13, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent news! Richard is more than entitled to such recognition. Congrats!

  9. Jeremy Nel
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Yay! What nice news!

  10. jose
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    *reads last line*

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

    • davidintoronto
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      No. Please, no.

  11. chascpeterson
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    nice fish
    nice tribute to Richard Dawkins
    nice dogwhistle

  12. Marta
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “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.

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      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.

      • hotshoe
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        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.

        • Peter Beattie
          Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

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

    • Thanny
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      • Peter Beattie
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        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.

  13. Graham
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    These fish are already popular in the trade. They are known collectively as filament barbs.

    • bacopa
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      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.

  14. Posted July 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    …and thanks for all the fishes Richard.

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

  15. Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    What? I guess they must be militant scientific fundamentalist fish… 😉


  16. Jose
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Actually, if Richard’s gender is now feminine, doesn’t this qualify him as a transwoman?

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Ah… we’ve already seen what that might look like


      • David Leech
        Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink


      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I do *not* want to know why you have so readily available a link of that sort.

        • Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          With Google all links are readily available!


          • David Leech
            Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            I’m not into childish shit like Harry Potter but that really is uncanny.

  17. David Edwards
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    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.

    • bacopa
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      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.

  18. Rohan Pethiyagoda
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    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 🙂

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      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!

      • Rohan Pethiyagoda
        Posted July 16, 2012 at 12:09 am | Permalink

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

        • Posted July 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          You’re welcome! TIFF is probably great for serious photographers, but I think it is still going to be a long time before it becomes natively supported in browsers.

  19. Marella
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Richard!

  20. Caroline52
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    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

  21. Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    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?

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      The first line should be “I had a look at the paper and noticed that while discussing…”. Sorry for the typos.

    • Rohan Pethiyagoda
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      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.).

      • Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        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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