by John Holbo on April 7, 2006

“Tiktaalik, Dr. Shubin said, is ‘both fish and tetrapod, which we sometimes call a fishapod.'” (NY Times link)

It seems to me there is a missed opportunity in not calling them ichthyopods. Because then you could riff on Daniel Dennett – the whole ‘no skyhooks’ thing. You could pen an attack on ID: ‘ichthyopod crane and the headless horseman of natural selection.’ Something like that. (I suppose an ichthyopod would really be an organism with fish for feet. But, then again, so would a fishapod. Come to think of it, suppose we find an organism with the number four attached to the ends of its legs. What are we going to call it? Not a tetrapod, surely. A problem. Speaking of four, google only gives us four hits for ‘ichthyopod’, as of today. If you are feeling lucky, you see this.)



derek 04.07.06 at 6:56 am

Speaking of four, google only gives us four hits for ‘ichthyopod’, as of today. If you are feeling lucky, you see this.

Surely fixable with even the mildest of Google bombing, shurely? (Google shower? Google sprinkle?)

Anyway, fishapod is doing little better so far:


Only one hit at time of writing, from New Scientist.

There are six hits in the news, so presumably it will spread into the main Google database by and by, unless “ichthyopod” can nip it in the bud.

Personaly I like Darwin fish myself.


David Moles 04.07.06 at 7:13 am

I dno’t know, I think “Fishopod Crane” scans better.


Barry Freed 04.07.06 at 7:24 am

Some really great missed marketing opportunities there. We could also abbreviate it and call it the I-Pod


chris y 04.07.06 at 7:25 am

Part of the reason this beastie is so cool is that its scientific name is in Inuktituk instead of pig Latin (“The word is half Latin and half Greek. no good will come of it” – C.P.Scott) What’s the Yanomami for a fish with legs: that’s the word we need.


The Modesto Kid 04.07.06 at 8:04 am

“fishapod” is certainly ludicrous. But why not a nice Germanic “legfish”? It is only getting 72 Google hits right now, of which the topmost is this nice mechanism.


KCinDC 04.07.06 at 9:35 am

I suppose an ichthyopod would really be an organism with fish for feet.

So a saurischian would really be an organism with lizards for hips? And Ornithorhyncus anatinus would really be a ducklike organism with a bird for a nose?

Seems to me an ichthypod could be an organism with feet like those a fish has. Perhaps it also has a bicycle like the one a fish has.


jacob 04.07.06 at 10:35 am

I’m with Chris Y in denouncing the combination of Latin and Greet roots in fishopod, since “fish,” according to the OED descends, rather circuitously, from “pisces.” Ichthyopod solves the problem rather nicely. Well done, John.

Huzzah for pedantry!


The Modesto Kid 04.07.06 at 11:25 am

On the contrary Jacob. “Fish” derives from Old Teutonic “fisko” which is cognate with “pisces” — meaning the two derive from a common Indo-European stem. But “pisces” is not in the etymological history of “fish”.


eudoxis 04.07.06 at 11:38 am

What’s wrong with the genus Tiktaalik? It may not be very descriptive, but it’s a nice name.


derek 04.07.06 at 11:49 am

Nobody’s dissing Tiktaalik, it’s a perfectly good name for a genus (and if nobody liked it it wouldn’t matter; it’s now the official and unalterable scientific name). “Icthyopod” is only being proposed as an alternative to “fishapod” when someone wants to describe what makes this thing special. We’re arguing about the relative merits of the following two sentences:

Tiktaalik, which we sometimes call a fishapod.”
Tiktaalik, which we sometimes call an ichthyopod.”


eudoxis 04.07.06 at 11:52 am

Tiktaalik is more innovative than a near tetrapod-like neighbor the Ichtyostega, or its nearest fishy neighbor Panderichthys. As more of these links are found we’ll run out of naming permutations for the between species.

With the fondness of cute names of late, Tiktaalik is really decent. But the description of fishopod is definitely sticky.


eudoxis 04.07.06 at 11:59 am

Derek, I understand. (And posted before I read your post.) Fishopod is meant for public consumption – really, Tiktaalik makes as much sense to the public as ichthyopod.

And John is just having fun. (much appreciated)


jacob 04.07.06 at 2:39 pm

Fair enough, Modesto Kid. You’re right. I misread the entry. But we’re still mixing roots with fishopod, no? Only instead of Latin and Greek, it’s Old Teutonic and Greek. Still militates for ichthyopod.

Is there a word for coined terms which combine roots from multiple languages?

And Eudoxis: As I am reading the discussion, we’re not talking about a popular version of Tiktaalik, but that we’re looking for a broader term. The Tiktaalik is a particular type of ichthyopod (or legfish), but one can imagine other, hypothetical ichthyopods that aren’t Tiktaaliks.


The Modesto Kid 04.07.06 at 10:42 pm

Jacob — This is why I like “legfish”. Way more euphonic (to my ear) than “fishopod”, and more descriptive.


eudoxis 04.07.06 at 11:39 pm

As I am reading the discussion, we’re not talking about a popular version of Tiktaalik, but that we’re looking for a broader term.
If you want to take this seriously, you really need to do this right. Tetrapods are a monophyletic clade that evolved after ‘fish’, so, technically, or cladistically, we are fish as well. However, fish are a broad, artificial category that includes many families in the evolutionary tree, even when the Latin or Greek word is used. Some are a lot like extant fishes, others don’t fit our popular perception of fish at all (lampreys). It’s important, however, to see that the muddy boundary in question does not exist between the broad category of fish and Tetrapods, but at a specific section of that category, the boundary between Tetrapods and their direct ancestors, in this case the Sarcopterygii. Along this lineage are found a number of already named genera, and now, also, Tiktaalik. Normally, the branch sections between nodes are not named, but, consistent with other naming systems, an arbitrary decision can change all that…

My point is that ‘fishopod’ is clear enough for the purpose of establishing an image of Tiktaalik in the public mind. Legfish would do too.


Dell Adams 04.08.06 at 1:42 am

I’m still trying to figure out why they didn’t call it Tiktaalichthys.

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