Open Access
How to translate text using browser tools
22 December 2022 Gender Representation in Molluscan Eponyms: Disparities and Legacy
Jann Vendetti
Author Affiliations +

Scientific names that refer to people are called eponyms and are chosen by species authors as honorific, meaningful, or symbolic. Herein, female and male personal eponyms were analyzed from a dataset of 4,915 molluscan species within eight regions worldwide. Eponyms were 12.5% of all species names, within which 10.6% (n = 65) were female and 89.4% (n = 550) were male. Among gastropods, female eponyms accounted for 3.4–18.9% of eponymous species names; male eponyms were 81.1–96.6%. Among bivalves, species names within five of eight regions included no female eponyms. Cephalopod and chiton species included 22 male eponyms and no female eponyms. Scientists and naturalists were honored as the source of 29.2% of female eponyms and 64.6% of male eponyms. First names were the source of 63.1% of female eponyms and 4.6% of male eponyms. Last names were the source of 93.8% of male eponyms and 35.4% of female eponyms. The most eponyms for a woman (n = 4) honor 20th century American malacologist, A. Myra Keen; the most eponyms for a man (n = 6) honor two 19th century English naturalists, Thomas Nuttall and Robert Swinhoe. Gender asymmetry in molluscan eponyms likely reflects barriers to women's participation in malacology, taxonomy, and systematics until the late 20th century. Recognition of this inequity should inform discussions about female representation in scientific names and provide context for understanding the history of eponyms and the people they honor.

Eponyms are scientific species names that refer to a person or persons. They may honor someone influential within a research community, a specimen collector, the species author's family member, friend, spouse, or a historical figure, fictional character, celebrity, or other individual(s), real or imagined (ICZN 1999, Mammola et al. 2022). Although genus names may be altered or replaced in taxonomic revisions, species names, unless synonymized, endure unchanged in perpetuity. Malacologists and others who learn and use eponymous scientific names are often unaware of their source. However and importantly, knowing the identity of an eponym can reveal some of that name's history, the societal and cultural norms at the time of naming, and the influences, affections, and proclivities of species authors. It can also reveal various forms of bias (DuBay et al. 2020, Pillon 2021). Because the preponderance of eponyms are genitive nouns that usually indicate the honored person to be female or male, it is possible to isolate these names and determine those referred to. Herein, I undertook this task with the aim of assessing gender within molluscan eponyms among gastropods, bivalves, cephalopods, and chitons from regions around the world.

The rules governing the construction of eponyms and other types of species names are found within the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (often called ‘the Code’), in Articles 11, 31, and 34 (ICZN 1999, Vendetti and Garland 2019). To create an eponym as a Latinized noun in the genitive case, a suffix is added to a person’s first, last, or full name that matches the gender of that person. For a girl or woman, -ae is added, so that possible eponyms of ‘Daisy Gómez’ are Genus daisyae, Genus gomezae, or Genus daisygomezae. For a boy or man, -i is added, such that eponyms of ‘James Chang’ are Genus jamesi, Genus changi, or Genus jameschangi. Although there is no guidance in the Code for species named after a person of non-binary gender, the suffix -is could be added to their name as described above (Vendetti and Garland 2019). For two or more female names, -arum is added; for two or more male names or any group including at least one male person, -orum is added. Eponyms can also end in adjectival suffixes that match the gender of the genus, such as, -[i]ana (feminine), -[i]anus (masculine), and -[i]anum (neuter), and -ia (feminine), -ius (masculine), and -ium (neuter). Unaltered personal names may also be eponyms if they are used as nouns in apposition, as in Etheostoma jimmycarter Layman and Mayden, 2012 (a fish), but these are usually reserved for mythical figures, famous people from history, or fictional characters.

Given the obstacles to women's participation in malacology and other natural history research (Wellenreuther and Otto 2016), especially during the 18th to 20th centuries when many species were named, I hypothesized that there would be fewer female than male eponyms among molluscan taxa. Consistent with this hypothesis is a prediction that eponymous species would largely honor species authors' male colleagues, mentors, collectors, collaborators, or researchers. However, as an alternate hypothesis, I considered that as many or more mollusk species might be named for women than men if those names referred to a species author's wife (often research collaborators), mother, sister, daughter, female friend, or female historical figure, goddess, or fictional woman.


The iNaturalist online biodiversity network and database (iNaturalist contributors 2022) was used to identify global geographic and political regions with terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats in which there were identified gastropods, bivalves, cephalopods, and chitons (polyplacophorans). Scaphopods and aplacophorans (solenogastres and caudofoveata) were not included in this analysis because they were poorly represented in iNaturalist. Eight global regions within Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania were chosen, each of which had at least 500 identified species of gastropods, 100 species of bivalves, 10 species of cephalopods, and 5 species of chitons. These regions were, 1) Southern California, comprising California's 10 southernmost counties; 2) a section of the Southern U.S., including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, 3) the island of Taiwan, 4) The Republic of India, 5) the Republic of South Africa, 6) Central America, from Guatemala and Belize to Panama, 7) Italy, and 8) New Zealand. Six hundred and fifteen (n = 615) taxa from each region were analyzed for eponyms, which included the most common 500 species of gastropods, 100 species of bivalves, 10 species of cephalopods, and 5 species of chitons.

The size of these species bins represented the most species of each molluscan class found in all regions within iNaturalist when the data were compiled (April 2022). That is, if there were 15 cephalopod species identified within iNaturalist from off the coast of India, 10 from Southern California, and 25 from South Africa, only the 10 most commonly identified species from each region were considered. All observations used in this analysis were also of research grade status, which meant that their species identity had been verified by at least two iNaturalist identifiers (2022). The total dataset included 4,915 species, (and not 4,920 because five species were present in multiple regions). Although regional species lists are comparable subsamples of molluscan biodiversity, they likely over-represent taxa that are macroscopic, conspicuous, abundant, and readily identifiable.

Putative eponyms were recognized by their suffixes as genitive nouns, adjectives, or nouns in apposition and entered into a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel). Each name was then evaluated as a human personal eponym or not, then as female or male from its published etymology or name description. Etymologies were also used to determine names as derived from a first name (given name) or last name (surname or ‘family name’). When there was no etymology, the source of an eponym was established, if possible, using other information such as the species author’s family members, friends, research colleagues, collectors, or others mentioned elsewhere in the publication. The online resources MolluscaBase/ WoRMS (MolluscaBase eds. 2022) and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (Rinaldo and Norton 2009) were used to locate primary literature and search within species descriptions. To identify eponym origins, the biographical information within ‘2,400 years of Malacology’ (Coan and Kabat 2022) and ‘Shellers from the Past and the Present’ (Poppe and Poppe 2022) were also used.

For practicality, an abbreviated list of male eponyms equal in number to that of female eponyms (n = 65, see Results), was compiled by arbitrarily choosing eight male gastropod eponyms from species found in Central America, Italy, New Zealand, Southern California, the Southern U.S., India, and South Africa, and nine from Taiwan. Name categories for eponyms were decided based on how the source of each eponym was described by the species author(s). When this information was absent, the relevant role or occupation of the person honored with a species name was considered as the name category. The category of scientist/naturalist was used instead of ‘malacologist’ or simply ‘scientist’ because prior to the professionalization of natural history studies in much of the Western world by the early 1900s, most writing, collecting, and documenting of biodiversity was done by avocational naturalists who often made contributions across organismal groups and would not necessarily be considered scientists by modern standards (Benson 1986).


The molluscan faunal lists of all eight localities (615 taxa per locality) included 4,915 species of which 12.5% were eponyms (Table 1, Table 2). Of these eponymous names, 10.6% (n = 65) were female and 89.4% (n = 550) were male (Table 1). Among all species surveyed, female eponyms were 1.3%, and male eponyms were 11.2%. The percentage of female eponyms was greatest for the Southern U.S. (16%, n = 12), followed closely by Southern California (15.1%, n = 15). India had the fewest total eponyms (5.4%, n = 33), the greatest percentage of male eponyms (97%, n=32) and the fewest female eponyms (3.0%, n = 1). New Zealand had the most total eponymous names (21.3%, n = 131) and the most female (n = 16) and male (n = 115) eponyms (Table 1). However, eight of New Zealand's 16 female eponyms had no etymologies, and six were female first names in apposition, e.g., Phrixgnathus celia F. W. Hutton, 1883 and Semicassis sophia (Brazier, 1872). Of the 65 female eponyms in the full dataset, thirteen (18.5%) had no etymologies or name sources that could be determined (Table 3). By contrast, only two male eponyms (3.1%) were of unknown origin (Table 3).

Among eponymous gastropods, India had the smallest percentage of female names (3.4%, n = 1) and Southern California had the largest (18.9%, n = 14) (Table 2). Among bivalves, Southern California, the Southern U.S., and New Zealand had one, one, and two female eponyms respectively, out of 100 species; the other regions (i.e., Taiwan, India, South Africa, Central America, and Italy) had none. Among cephalopods and chitons (15 per region, n = 120 total), there were 22 male eponyms and no female eponyms. It is a coincidence that the number of species surveyed per region (n = 615) is the same as the number of eponyms identified within the dataset (Table 1, Table 2).

Table 1.

Molluscan eponyms among 615 species in each of eight worldwide regions, as percent and total (n). The total number of eponyms within 4,915 molluscan species surveyed was 615: 10.6% female and 89.4% male. Each region's species list was generated in iNaturalist ( Data broken down by molluscan class are in Table 2.


The largest name category for both female and male eponyms was scientist/naturalist, followed by collector (Table 3). Among female eponyms, the categories of daughter, wife, and mother were female by definition. The categories of illustrator and mythical figure need not have been exclusively female but were in this dataset. Sea captain/admiral and diplomat/ naturalist were solely male; one species was named for a husband, and no species were named for sons or fathers (Table 3, Supplemental Tables 1, 2).

In some cases, determining an eponym's inclusion in these categories was subjective. For example, Actinodoris krusensternii Gray, 1850 (now Dendrodoris krusensternii) has no etymology, but within the text the species author, Gray (1850) referred to the Krusenstern Atlas and its creator, Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern, a Russian explorer. Therefore, the source of this eponym was considered as von Krusenstern, a ‘sea captain/admiral’ but could have been ‘cartographer’ or ‘explorer’, as von Krusenstern was both. Conversely, the etymology of the dorid nudibranch Limacia inesae Toms, Pola, Von der Heyden and Gosliner, 2021 unambiguously described the species name as honoring the daughter of one of the paper’s authors (Toms et al. 2021). Additionally, the number of species named for a male species author’s wife would have been six instead of three if several women for whom species were named (by their malacologist husbands) were not credited herein as scientists, illustrators, or collectors. These include the dorid nudibranch Felimare porterae named for Willamette Porter Cockerell (1870–1957), a collector, whose husband was Theodore D. A. Cockerell; the aeolid nudibranch Anteaeolidiella oliviae and sacoglossan Hermaea oliviae named for Olive Knowles Hornbrook MacFarland (1872–1962), an illustrator, whose husband was Frank M. MacFarland (1869–1951); and the dorid nudibranch Tyrinna evelinae named for Eveline du Bois-Reymond Marcus (1901–1990), a mollusk scientist, whose husband was Ernst G. Gotthelf Marcus (1893–1968).

Of the dataset's 65 female eponyms, the most named for any woman (n = 4) honor Stanford University Earth Sciences professor and malacologist, Angeline Myra Keen (1905–1986), known as A. Myra Keen or Myra Keen, who specialized in Californian and Panamic shelled gastropods (Figure 1). Three of these species are from California: the pharid bivalve, Ensis myrae Berry, 1954; nudibranch gastropod, Tritonicula myrakeenae (Bertsch and Osuna, 1986); and littorinid gastropod, Littorina keenae Rosewater, 1978; and one is from the Western Atlantic, the lucinid bivalve, Callucina keenae (Chavan, 1971). Dr. Keen was an influential 20th century American malacologist whose legacy within California and beyond continues today (Moore 1987). As one example, the author (J. Vendetti) is Dr. Keen's academic ‘granddaughter’: her Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Carole Hickman at UC Berkeley, was a Ph.D. student of Dr. Keen’s at Stanford University. Other women for whom species were named in this dataset include the malacologists Eveline du Bois-Reymond Marcus (n = 3) and Jessica Hope MacPherson (1919–2018) (n = 1), collector Mary Lathrop Andrews (1837–1908) (n = 2), and marine biologists Isobel Bennett (1909–2008) (n = 1) and Diva Diniz Corrêa (1918–1993) (n = 1).

Within the 550 male eponyms, six species are named for Thomas Nuttall (1786–1859), an English naturalist who collected throughout the U.S. (Coville 1899), and Robert Swinhoe (1836–1877), an English diplomat and naturalist who collected in China and Taiwan (Chang 1991). No other individuals have more species named for them in this dataset. The species named for Nuttall are bivalves found in Southern California, which were described by Conrad (1837) from Nuttall's collection. The species named for Swinhoe are land and freshwater gastropods from Taiwan, described by Pfeiffer (1866) and H. Adams (1866). Other men for whom species were named in this dataset include the naturalist Pierre Marie Arthur Morelet (1809–1892), and malacologists William H. Dall, (1845–1927), Henry A. Pilsbry (1862–1957), and Shintarō Hirase (1884–1939).

Table 2.

Molluscan eponyms among 615 species in eight regions, as percent and total (n), female (fem.) and male, broken down by four molluscan classes: gastropods, bivalves, cephalopods, and chitons. Each region's species list was generated in iNaturalist. ‘Of species surveyed’ refers to the eponyms within all species surveyed of each molluscan class per region, i.e., 500, 100, 10, or 5.


Of the dataset's 65 female eponyms, 63.1% (n = 41) were derived from first names, e.g., Atrimitra idae (Melvill, 1893) [for Ida S. Oldroyd] and Elysia margaritae Fez, 1962 [for Margarita Ebanez]. Last names were the source of 35.4% (n = 23) of female eponyms, and 1.5% (n = 1) were composed of a first and last name (Table 3). Among the 65 male eponyms in the abbreviated dataset, 4.6% (n = 3) were derived from the honoree's first name and 93.8% (n = 61) from their last name, e.g., Glyptostoma newberryanum (W.G. Binney, 1858) [for John S. Newberry] and Helicostyla okadai Kuroda, 1932 [for Yaichiro K. Okada] (Table 3). Counted as both male and female eponyms were four species with the genitive masculine plural suffix -orum; which in this dataset referred to a man and woman, e.g., Coryphellina marcusorum (Gosliner and Kuzirian, 1990) for Ernst Marcus and Eveline du Bois-Reymond Marcus.

Notably, Latin suffixes alone were not always sufficient to determine the gender of the person(s) honored by an eponym, and in some cases, what appeared to be personal eponyms referred to non-human entities, geographic places, or other Latin nouns. For example, in the sea hare Aplysia juliana (Quoy and Gaimard, 1832), the latinized ‘juliana’ honors Julien François Desjardins, a male French naturalist. In the sacoglossan sea slug Thuridilla vataae (Risbec, 1928), Vata is not a woman’s name but refers to the Bay of Vata in New Caledonia. Likewise, the trochid gastropod Maurea waikanae (Oliver, 1926) is named for the New Zealand town of Waikanae, not Ms. Waikan; and the aporrhaid gastropod Aporrhais pespelecani (Linnaeus, 1758) does not honor a Mr. Pespelecan, but instead is Latin for ‘pelican foot’.

Table 3.

Molluscan female and male eponyms in name categories identifying the honorees' role or relationship to the species author, and the source of the species name as first/given name, last name/ surname, both, or nickname. Female eponyms (n = 65) were all such species names within the dataset's 4,915 taxa; male eponyms (n = 65) were a subset of the dataset's 550 male eponyms. Data are as percent and total (n). ‘Unknown’ indicates that the source of the eponym was unable to be determined.



The gender disparities in molluscan eponyms analyzed herein are stark, with nearly 8.5 times more male than female names (Tables 13). This result is consistent with the hypothesis that eponymous mollusks largely honor male naturalists, scientists, and other men involved in malacology. Indeed, the number of species named for female scientists or naturalists (29.2%, n = 19) was less than half the number of species named for male scientists or naturalists (64.6%, n = 42), in the abbreviated dataset. Interestingly, female and male specimen collectors were nearly equally honored by eponyms (Table 3), though their life experiences were often very different. For example, many collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries were privileged and wealthy European men who traveled to European colonies, extracting and transferring local specimens to natural history museums in London, Paris, and Berlin. These include Thomas Norris (1765–1852), Jean-Jacques Dussumier (1792–1883), and Hans Fruhstorfer (1866–1922). Such a life was not the case for female collectors. Unlike their male counterparts, no woman in this dataset was a wealthy globetrotter free or commissioned to travel and collect internationally. And those women who were prolific collectors domestically, e.g., Mary Lathrop Andrews in the U.S., were often acknowledged in scientific papers by their husband's name if they were married, i.e., ‘Mrs. George Andrews’ (Binney 1879, Binney 1883, Simpson 1900). The phenomenon of women’s name identity being functionally erased after marriage is treated by Bosmajian (1972) and Stannard (1977).

Figure 1.

Angeline Myra Keen, malacologist and Stanford University professor, with book gift from the Emperor of Japan, 1967. Stanford News Service records (SC0122: 4783-3), Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California. Available at:


Inequity in gender representation among molluscan eponyms can be explained, in part, by the historical dearth of women studying mollusks at the level of professional researcher, curator, and professor. In the U.S. and elsewhere, women were largely dissuaded or excluded from study and employment in much of science until the passage of legislation in the 20th century (Hill 2012, Horrocks 2019). Prior to the professionalization of science in the 19th century, most natural history and scientific societies also prohibited women, as these were intended for curious and well-off ‘gentlemen’ of European ancestry (Bell and McEwan 1996, Eastman 2006, Lightman 2006), though there are exceptions (Coan1989, Tellez 2017).

Therefore, far fewer women than men influenced taxonomy and systematics as naturalists and ‘advanced amateurs’ in the 1800–1900s. When women did collections-related work in museums it was usually as artists and illustrators, assistants to curators, and specimen preparators; nearly all were unmarried and many were poorly paid or unpaid (Jackson and Jones 2007, Madsen-Brooks 2013, Byrne 2019). Married women working in natural history museums were often the wives of male curators and took unofficial museum positions as assistants and volunteers or were given titles but no pay (Jackson and Jones 2007). Both married and unmarried women were varyingly credited for their contributions to published research (Rossiter 1993, Pillon 2021).

Much of women's exclusion from scientific spheres was due to sexism that dictated their roles and occupations as subordinate to men, as well as misogynist assertions that women were unfit for intellectual rigor (Darwin 1874, Lowie and Hollingworth 1916, Wellenreuther and Otto 2016). For example, once women were admitted into natural science departments at colleges and universities (often decades after men) in the mid to late 1800s or later, they were often barred from participating in fieldwork that prepared their male classmates for graduate school or post-graduate careers (Ainley 1994, Campbell 2000). Importantly, the pernicious ‘marriage bar’ of the 19th and 20th centuries systematically excluded many women from senior positions in science because it forced single women to resign their position after marrying. These rules, sometimes written into law, were also used to justify considering married women and widows as ineligible for employment (Sawer 1996, Toogood et al. 2020). Although these policies became less prevalent in the 1920–30s, marriage bars were legal in the U.S. until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (Foley 2022). Elsewhere, marriage bars in public service were outlawed later, e.g., 1966 in Australia and 1973 in Ireland (Colley 2018, Foley 2022). Indeed, Jessica Hope MacPherson, Curator of Molluscs at the National Museum of Victoria, Australia resigned her position of nearly 20 years after marrying in 1965 (Gillanders and Heupel 2019); see also Helen Lowe-McConnell (Parenti and Stiassny 2016) and Cynthia Longfield (Byrne 2019). A more thorough treatment of barriers to women’s participation in taxonomy, natural history, and evolutionary biology, is presented by Maroske and May (2018), Bronstein and Bolnick (2018), and Wellenreuther and Otto (2016). Accounts of women’s contributions to malacology, especially when access and opportunities were limited, are found in Coan and Kellogg (1990), Norwood (1997), Morse (2004), Mikkelsen (2010), Allcock et al. (2015), Knatz (2016), and Byrne et al. (2018).

In several instances herein, even when a species name was intended to honor a female person, errors or intentional changes masculinized it. For example, the etymology of the dorid nudibranch Cadlina limbaughi Lance, 1962 states that it honors the late Conrad Limbaugh and his surviving wife Nan Limbaugh, but the proposed name was C. limbaughi not C. limbaughorum (Lance 1962). Likewise, Willett (1939) named a species of velutinid gastropod for Mrs. Rubie E. Sharon with the name Lamellaria sharoni Willett, 1939 not L. sharonae, and Binney (1879) honored ‘Mrs. Andrews’ with the masculine name Mesodon andrewsi for a polygyrid land snail. Most egregious is the narrative reported by Coan and Petit (2011) of Gray (1800–1875), whose assimineid gastropod species Assiminea francesiae Wood, 1828, was named for Gray’s sister Frances but was changed from francesiae to francesii by Rev. Joseph Goodall (1760–1840) prior to being published (Wood 1828). Gray (1867) remarked that Goodall also inexplicably masculinized Nerita smithiae to Nerita smithii and Turbo maugerae to Turbo maugeri, positing that maybe Goodall “did not think it right that a shell should be named after a woman”. Notably, in 1892 American malacologist William H. Dall named a vitrinellid gastropod as Vitrinella williamsoni and not V. williamsonae for malacologist and woman Martha Burton Williamson (1843–1922) because, he argued, the surname ‘Williamson’ was masculine (Dall in Williamson 1892, Knatz 2016). Dall added that in naming the species V. williamsoni, “the usual genitive ending is preserved” [emphasis mine] (Dall in Williamson 1892). It is unclear what Dall considered unusual about a feminine Latin genitive suffix.

In contrast to V. williamsoni of Dall, female first names as the basis of eponyms were more common than last names (Table 3). Among female eponyms, first names as a source were 1.8 times more common than last names. Female first names among female eponyms were nearly 14 times more common (63.1%, n = 41) than men's first names among male eponyms (4.6%, n = 3) (Table 3). Within male eponyms, those based on last names were 15 times more common than names derived from first names (Table 3). This imbalance is consistent with the results of two analyses of eponyms in non-molluscan groups, wherein, among 183 bird eponyms, female first names were the source of 59% of female eponyms, while male first names were the source of only 1% of male eponyms (DuBay et al. 2020). And, among eponyms of New Caledonian flora, 68% of female eponyms were derived from female first names, but only 2% of male eponyms were derived from male first names (Pillon 2021).

Potential explanations for the disparity in use of first versus last names in eponymous mollusks, birds, plants, and likely other taxonomic groups, are many. Maybe species authors preferred to use the first name of a single woman because her last name would change upon marrying. As an example, a Southern California malacologist, pioneering diver, specimen collector, and benefactor of the endowed malacology curatorship at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, was born Twila Langdon in 1911 and died as Twila (Langdon) Smoot Bratcher Critchlow in 2006; the additional names due to several marriages (McLean 2007). Conceivably, like Dall, some species authors could have considered masculine surnames like Williamson as requiring a masculine suffix even when honoring a girl or woman, and chose to use a first name instead. Perhaps male species authors opted to use the first name of their wife when naming a species after her instead of using their shared last name (if they shared one). In two examples herein, Ernst Marcus (1893–1968) named the dorid nudibranch Tyrinna evelinae (Er. Marcus, 1958) for his wife Eveline, and Frank MacFarland (1869–1951) named the aeolid nudibranch Anteaeolidiella oliviae (MacFarland, 1966) after his wife Olive. In the single example in this dataset of a wife naming a mollusk after her husband, Dolores (Saunders) Dundee (1927–1985) named the terrestrial slug Laevicaulis haroldi Dundee, 1980 (now Eleutherocaulis haroldi) after her husband Harold. Finally, maybe a species author showed deference by using someone's last name as the source of an eponym, and such deference was afforded to men more than women.

Eponyms and other species names can also reveal the abuses and injustices of colonialism and racism. Although the ICZN calls on species authors to construct names that do not cause offense (Recommendation 25c, ICZN 1999), mollusks and other taxonomic groups include problematic names that were derogatory when published or have subsequently become so (Driver and Bond 2021, Pillon 2021, Smith and Figueiredo 2022, Tracy 2022). Within the dataset analyzed herein, one such name is Unio caffer Krauss, 1848, a unionoid mussel from South Africa. The species name evokes British colonial influence in South Africa (e.g., British Kaffraria, sometimes spelled Caffraria or Cafferia) and racism by people of European heritage toward indigenous South Africans (e.g., in Flemyng 1853). The name itself, often spelled with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’, is also a pejorative term for Black South Africans and has been considered hate speech in South Africa since 2015 (Mbowa 2020, Koopman 2021). The species author, Christian Ferdinand F. Krauss (1812–1890), used the same epithet for several South African gastropods in the genera Ancylus, Bulimus, and Conus, none of which have etymologies (Herbert and Warén 1999). Krauss was a curator at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History in Germany (Merker and Staniczek 2018) and is considered the ‘father of South African malacology’ (Herbert and Warén 1999). Further exploration and discussion of the topic of problematic scientific names is beyond the scope of this paper but merits its own treatment (Eichhorn et al. 2019, Kean 2019, Koopman 2021).

Currently in the U.S., colleges and universities graduate more women then men with undergraduate and master's degrees in the biological sciences (NCSES 2019). However, among employed Ph.Ds in this field, women trail men (NCSES 2019) and in senior positions such as full professor and museum curator, men outnumber women by even larger margins (Wellenreuther and Otto 2016, NCSES 2019). Reasons for this asymmetry are varied and debated (De Welde and Laursen 2011, Pollack 2013, Shipman 2015, Cabay et al. 2018). What is clear, is that the disparity between the number of male and female molluscan eponyms is a consequence and reminder of a culture of exclusion that stymied women's participation in taxonomy and molluscan science until the mid to late 1900s. Recognizing this and other biases within taxonomy and sytematics should inspire important conversations about who participates in science, how and why scientific names are chosen, and the legacy of those names.


For access to literature, I am grateful to Trevor Alixopulos at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) library, Seth Cotterell at the California Academy of Sciences library, the University of Southern California library, and the Link+ service of the Glendale, California public library. For locating a photo of A. Myra Keen and permitting its publication here, I thank Yolanda Bustos, archivist at NHMLAC, and Josh Schneider, archivist at Stanford University. I appreciate the feedback of those who heard a version of this paper as a talk at the remote meeting of Southern California Unified Malacologists (SCUM) on February 2, 2022. I thank Bill Wright of Chapman University for organizing SCUM 2022 and Tim Pearce at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for inviting me to develop that presentation into this paper. Dr. Pearce's thoughtful comments on an early draft are especially appreciated, as are insights from Joscha Beninde at UCLA, and the edits and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers. For helpful discussions I am grateful to Hans Bertsch and Robert Dees, as well as Austin Hendy and Lindsey T. Groves at NHMLAC, my colleagues in and associated with the Urban Nature Research Center, Carole Hickman at UC Berkeley, and Prithvi Dinesh Chandra of Occidental College. I also sincerely thank those that fund and maintain iNaturalist, as well as the worldwide community of iNaturalist users. The opinions herein and any errors are my own.



Adams, H. 1866. Descriptions of a new genus and some new species of mollusks. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1865: 753–755. Google Scholar


Allcock, A. L., S. von Boletzky, L. Bonnaud-Ponticelli, N. E. Brunetti, N. J. Cazzaniga, E. Hochberg, M. Ivanovic, M. Lipinski, J. E. Marian, C. Nigmatullin, and M. Nixon. 2015. The role of female cephalopod researchers: Past and present. Journal of Natural History 49: 1235–1266. Google Scholar


Ainley, M. G. 1994. Women's work in geology: A historical perspective on gender division in Canadian science. Geoscience Canada 21: 140–142. Google Scholar


Bell, M. and C. McEwan. 1996. The admission of women Fellows to the Royal Geographical Society, 1892-1914; the controversy and the outcome. Geographical Journal 162: 295–312. Google Scholar


Benson, K. R. 1986. Concluding Remarks: American natural history and biology in the nineteenth century. American Zoologist 26: 381–384. Google Scholar


Bezerra, A. M. and A. Lazar. 2019. Women in Brazilian mammalogy: The pioneers and the prominent members of the Brazilian Society of Mammalogy. Boletim da Sociedade Brasileira de Mastozoologia 85: 128–143. Google Scholar


Binney, W. G. 1879. On certain North American species of Zonites, etc. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1: 355–362. Google Scholar


Binney, W. G. 1883. A supplement to the fifth volume of the terrestrial air-breathing mollusks of the United States and adjacent territories (Vol. 3). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 11: 135–166. Google Scholar


Bosmajian, H. A. 1972. The language of sexism. ETC: A Review of General Semantics 29: 305–313. Google Scholar


Bronstein, J. L. and D. I. Bolnick. 2018. “Her joyous enthusiasm for her life-work…”: Early women authors in the American Naturalist. The American Naturalist 192: 655–663. Google Scholar


Byrne, M., L. Broadhurst, M. Leishman, and K. Belov. 2018. Women in conservation science making a difference. Pacific Conservation Biology 24: 209–214. Google Scholar


Byrne, A. 2019. Constructing the blobal Irish woman traveller: Cynthia Longfield's scientific researches in South America, 1921–27. ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies 21: 27–36. Google Scholar


Cabay, M., B. L. Bernstein, M. Rivers. and N. Fabert. 2018. Chilly climates, balancing acts, and shifting pathways: What happens to women in STEM doctoral programs. Social Sciences 7: 1–33. Google Scholar


Campbell Jr, K. E. 2000. In Memoriam: Hildegarde Howard, 1901–1998. The Auk 117: 775–779. Google Scholar


Chang, K. M. 1991. Catalogue of freshwaters shells of Taiwan. Bulletin of Malacology, Republic of China 16: 85–96. Google Scholar


Coan, E. V. 1989. The malacological papers and taxa of Martha Burton Woodhead Williamson, 1843–1922: and the Isaac Lea Chapter of the Agassiz Association. The Veliger 32: 296–301. Google Scholar


Coan, E. V. and M. G. Kellogg. 1990. The malacological contributions of Ida Shepard Oldroyd and Tom Shaw Oldroyd. Veliger 33: 174–184. Google Scholar


Coan, E. V. and R. E. Petit. 2011. The publications and malacological taxa of William Wood (1774–1857). Malacologia 54: 1–76. Google Scholar


Coan, E. and A. R. Kabat. 2022. 2,400 years of malacology, 19th edition, 6 January 2022. American Malacological Society. Available at: Google Scholar


Colley, L. 2018. For better or for worse: Fifty years since the removal of the marriage bar in the Australian Public Service. Australian Journal of Politics & History 64: 227–240. Google Scholar


Conrad, T. A. 1837. Description of new marine shells, from Upper California. Collected by Thomas Nuttall, Esq. The Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 7: 227–268. Google Scholar


Coville, F. V. 1899. The botanical explorations of Thomas Nuttall in California. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 13: 109–121. Google Scholar


Dall, W. H. 1892. Vitrinella Williamsoni [sic] Dall. In: M. B. Williamson and W. H. Dall. An Annotated List of the Shells of San Pedro Bay and Vicinity. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 15: 202. Google Scholar


Darwin, C. 1874. The Descent of Man, 2nd Edition. John Murray, London, U.K. Google Scholar


De Welde, K. and S. Laursen. 2011. The glass obstacle course: Informal and formal barriers for women Ph.D. students in STEM fields. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology 3: 571–595. Google Scholar


Driver, R. J. and A. L. Bond. 2021. Towards redressing inaccurate, offensive and inappropriate common bird names. Ibis 163: 1492–1499. Google Scholar


DuBay, S., D. H. Palmer, and N. Piland. 2020. Global inequity in scientific names and who they honor. BioRxiv. Google Scholar


Eastman, L. M. 2006. The Portland Society of Natural History: The rise and fall of a venerable institution. Northeastern Naturalist 13: 1–38. Google Scholar


Eichhorn, M. P., K. Baker, and M. Griffiths. 2019. Steps towards decolonising biogeography. Frontiers of Biogeography 12: 1–7. Google Scholar


Flemyng, F. P. 1853. Kaffraria, and Its Inhabitants. Smith, Elder, and Company, Cape Province, South Africa. Google Scholar


Foley, D. 2022. ‘Their proper place’: Women, work and the marriage bar in independent Ireland, c. 1924–1973. Social History 47: 60–84. Google Scholar


Gillanders, B. M. and M. R. Heupel. 2019. Women in marine science in Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 70: i–iii. Google Scholar


Gray, J. E. 1867. Note on Assiminea francesiae. Annals and Magazine of Natural History ser. 3, 20: 77–78. Google Scholar


Gray, M. E. 1850. Figures of Molluscous Animals, Selected from Various Authors, Vol. 4. Longman, London. Google Scholar


Herbert, D. G. and A. Warén. 1999. South African Mollusca described by Ferdinand Krauss: their current status and notes on type material housed in the Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm. Annals of the Natal Museum 40: 205–243. Google Scholar


Hill, K. 2012. ‘He knows me… but not at the museum’: Women, natural history collecting and museums, 1880-1914. In: S. H. Dudley, A. J. Barnes, J. Binnie, J. Petrov, and J. Walklate, eds. Narrating Objects, Collecting Stories: Essays in Honour of Professor Susan M. Pearce. Routledge, London. Pp. 184–196. Google Scholar


Horrocks, S. 2019. The women who cracked science's glass ceiling. Nature 575: 243–247. Google Scholar


ICZN. 1999. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. Fourth Edition. London: The International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature. Available at: 17 May 2022. Google Scholar


iNaturalist contributors. 2022. iNaturalist Research-grade Observations. Occurrence dataset. Available at: 21 April 2022. Google Scholar


Jackson, P. N. W. and M. E. S. Jones. 2007. The quiet workforce: The various roles of women in geological and natural history museums during the early to mid-1900s. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 281: 97–113. Google Scholar


Kean, A. 2019. Historians expose early scientists' debt to the slave trade. Science 5may 2022Google Scholar


Knatz, G. 2016. Early women scientists of Los Angeles harbor. Bulletin, Southern California Academy of Sciences 115: 98–111. Google Scholar


Koopman, A. 2021. The use of the ethnonym ‘Hottentot’ in the bird names ‘Hottentot Teal’ and ‘Hottentot Buttonquail’ Ostrich 92: 151–155. Google Scholar


Lance, J. R. 1962. Two new opisthobranch mollusks from southern California. The Veliger 4: 155–159. Google Scholar


Lightman, B. 2006. Depicting nature, defining roles: The gender politics of Victorian illustration. In: A. B. Shteir and B. V. Lightman, eds., Figuring it out: Science, Gender, and Visual Culture. Dartmouth College Press, Hanover. Pp. 214–239. Google Scholar


Lowie, R. H. and L. S. Hollingworth. 1916. Science and feminism. The Scientific Monthly 3: 277–284. Google Scholar


Madsen-Brooks, L. 2013. A synthesis of expertise and expectations: Women museum scientists, club women and populist natural science in the United States, 1890–1950. Gender and History 25: 27–46. Google Scholar


Mammola, S., N. Viel, D. Amiar, A. Mani, C. Hervé, S. B. Heard, D. Fontaneto, and J. Pétillon. 2022. Taxonomic practice, creativity, and fashion: What's in a spider name? BioRxiv. Google Scholar


Maroske, S. and T. W. May. 2018. Naming names: The first women taxonomists in mycology. Studies in Mycology 89: 63–84. Google Scholar


Mbowa, S. 2020. Exploring the use of South African ethnic and racial slurs on social media. International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies 3: 53–68. Google Scholar


McLean, J. H. 2007. Twila Bratcher-Critchlow (1911–2006). The Festivus 39: 61–65. Google Scholar


Merker, S. and A. H. Staniczek. 2018. Stuttgart: The Zoological Collections of the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History. In: L. A. Beck, ed., Zoological Collections of Germany. Springer, Cham, Switzerland. Pp. 621–645. Google Scholar


Mikkelsen, P. M. 2010. Seventy-five years of molluscs: A history of the American Malacological Society on the occasion of its 75th annual meeting. American Malacological Bulletin 28: 191–213. Google Scholar


MolluscaBase, eds. 2022. MolluscaBase.  https://www.molluscabase.orgGoogle Scholar


Moore, E. 1987. Memorial to Angeline Myra Keen: 1905–1986. Geological Society of America, Memorials 18: 1–4. Google Scholar


Morse, M. P. 2004. In celebration of two outstanding molluscan functional morphologists: Drs. Vera Fretter and Ruth D. Turner. American Malacological Bulletin 18: 115–119. Google Scholar


Norwood, V. 1997. Shells and Women: The Philadelphia Conchological Illustrators. In: K. M. Martinez and K. L. Ames, eds., The Material Culture of Gender, the Gender of Material Culture. University Press of New England, Hanover. Pp. 393–410. Google Scholar


Parenti, L. R. and M. L. Stiassny. 2016. Rosemary Helen Lowe-McConnell (1921–2014), honorary foreign member in Ichthyology. Copeia 104: 607–609. Google Scholar


Pfeiffer, L. 1866. Descriptions of thirteen new species of land-shells from Formosa, in the collection of the late Hugh Cuming, collected by Mr. Robert Swinhoe, vice-consul of that island. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 33: 828–831. Google Scholar


Pillon, Y. 2021. The inequity of species names: The flora of New Caledonia as a case study. Biological Conservation 253: 108934. Google Scholar


Pollack, E. 2013. Why are there still so few women in science? The New York Times Magazine 3 October 2013. Available at: 5 May 2022. Google Scholar


Poppe, G. T. and P. Poppe. 2022. Shellers from the past and the present, Conchology, Inc., Available at: Google Scholar


Rinaldo, C. and C. Norton. 2009. BHL, The Biodiversity Heritage Library: An expanding international collaboration. Nature Precedings. Google Scholar


Rossiter, M. W. 1993. The Matthew Matilda effect in science. Social Studies of Science 23: 325–341. Google Scholar


Sawer, M. 1996. Introduction. In: M. Sawer, ed., Removal of the Commonwealth Marriage Bar: A Documentary History, 2nd Edition. Centre for Research in Public Sector Management, University of Canberra. Pp. 1–11. Google Scholar


Shipman, P. 2015. Taking the long view on sexism in science. American Scientist 103: 392–394. Google Scholar


Simpson, C. T. 1900. Descriptive catalogue of the naiades, or pearly freshwater mussels. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 22: 501–1044. Google Scholar


Smith, G. F. and E. Figueiredo. 2022. “Rhodes–” must fall: Some of the consequences of colonialism for botany and plant nomenclature. Taxon 71: 1–5. Google Scholar


Stannard, U. 1977. Mrs Man. Germainbooks, San Francisco. Google Scholar


Tracy, B. H. 2022. What's in a fish species name and when to change it? Fisheries 47: 337–345. Google Scholar


Tellez, A. 2017. Influential women of the San Diego Society of Natural History. Available at: May 2022. Google Scholar


Toms, J. A., M. Pola, S. von der Heyden, and T. M. Gosliner. 2021. Disentangling species of the genus Limacia O.F. Müller, 1781, from southern Africa and Europe using integrative taxonomical methods, with the description of four new species. Marine Biodiversity 51: 1–31. Google Scholar


Toogood, M., C. Waterton, and W. Heim. 2020. Women scientists and the freshwater biological association, 1929–1950. Archives of Natural History 47: 16–28. Google Scholar


Vendetti, J. E. and R. Garland. 2019. Species name formation for zoologists: A pragmatic approach. Journal of Natural History 53: 2999–3018. Google Scholar


Wellenreuther, M. and S. Otto. 2016. Women in evolution–highlighting the changing face of evolutionary biology. Evolutionary Applications 9: 3–16. Google Scholar


Willett, G. 1939. Description of a new mollusk from California. The Nautilus 52: 123–124. Google Scholar


Wood, W. 1828. Supplement to the Index Testaceologicus; or A Catalogue of Shells, British and Foreign. Richard Taylor, London. Google Scholar


Supplemental Table 1.

Female eponyms (n = 65), their derivation, and species author(s) from an iNaturalist-generated dataset of 4,915 molluscan taxa from Southern California, the Southern United States, Taiwan, India, South Africa, Central America, Italy, and New Zealand. Nearly species are gastropods; bivalves are indicated with aB. Genus names reflect accepted taxonomy at the time of publishing.




Supplemental Table 2.

A random sample of male eponyms (n = 65) with their derivation and species author(s) from 550 male eponyms within an iNaturalist-generated dataset of 4,915 molluscan taxa from Southern California, the Southern United States, Taiwan, India, South Africa, Central America, Italy, and New Zealand. All species are gastropods. Genus names reflect accepted taxonomy at the time of publishing.



Jann Vendetti "Gender Representation in Molluscan Eponyms: Disparities and Legacy," American Malacological Bulletin 39(1), 1-13, (22 December 2022).
Received: 14 June 2022; Accepted: 7 December 2022; Published: 22 December 2022
Back to Top