Funny Names in Phylogeny with The “Blue Dragon” Nudibranch, my new favorite sea slug

The Blue Dragon. What a Nudibranch!

The Blue Dragon. What a Nudibranch!

So we all have that friend who’s really interested in animal phylogeny, the study of the evolutionary history of organisms and their groupings. Wait… we don’t all have that friend? Is it only me?

Well in any case, my phylo-friend (whose name is Margrethe, but who is not the Queen of Denmark) posted about an amazing recent discovery: the Blue Dragon, or Glaucus atlanticus, which washed up on the shores of Queensland, Australia recently.

Of course, my friend wouldn’t just stop at this, but instead had to up the ante by saying “Possibly my favorite nudibranch.”

I was baffled by the word, so replied with “You’re my favorite nudibranch. What the heck is a nudibranch?” Then she clarified that the nudibranchs (it’s pronounced nudi-brank… which is why the plural is nudibranchs and not nudibranches) are commonly known as sea slugs. I apologized for calling her a sea slug, then I realized she loves phylogeny and probably finds the nudibranchs beautiful and might have taken it as a compliment.

It turns out she did, thank goodness. I’d hate to offend someone by calling them a sea slug. Then we all lived happily ever after in our little castles of weirdness and esoteric interests!

Then I thought “nudibranch” was such a funny term, that it was worth further investigation.

Well, apparently the order nudibranchia is a big group. Nudi comes from the Latin word for “naked” (no real surprise there, I suppose) and branch comes from the Latin word for gills (which is a surprise). So they have naked gills.

Who comes up with this stuff? I can just imagine some moustachioed zoologist from the 1800’s saying, “You know, chap, I think ‘naked gills’ is a splendid phylogenic classification! Jolly good and all that rot!” and so the nudibranch was named. I don’t care if you have so-called “facts” on your side. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And now, I present, the BoFN’s first ever Nudi-calendar, courtesy of a little site known as Wikipedia. Enjoy the naked-gill action! Not safe for work… or is it?!?

Aeolidiella stephanieae... that's a funny name!

Aeolidiella stephanieae… that’s a funny name!

More Nudibranch action! Apparently this is Berghia coerulescens eating Aiptasia couchii. Poor couchii!

More Nudibranch action! Apparently this is Berghia coerulescens eating Aiptasia couchii. Poor couchii!


Apparently these nudibranchs are mating, those wild and crazy Nembrotha purpureolineata!

Apparently these nudibranchs are mating, those wild and crazy Nembrotha purpureolineata!


I hope you’ve enjoyed our little detour into the Order Nudibranchia. Who knows what kind of wacky stuff the BoFN will come up with next? Until next time, make sure to know your audience before you tell a friend they’re your favorite sea slug!

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Lorne Greene

Last month we talked about Red Smith, which led me to Red Green, which led me to Lorne Greene. Which is a green of a different spelling.

Last week, Mark B. talked about Gump Worsley who’s real first name is Lorne, and Kerbey commented on Lorne Michaels, clearly the stars and the colors were aligning.

Which leads us back to Canadian born Lorne Greene. He didn’t start out as Lorne, no way. He entered this world as Lyon Himan “Chiam” Green. A name not listed in Dave’s famous stage names post last week.

With such a commanding name, why change it?

Lorne Greene, 1968 (From Wikipedia)

Lorne Greene, 1968 (From Wikipedia)

He started out in radio and became Canada’s top newscaster—The Voice of Canada—during World War II. He was nicknamed “The Voice of Doom” because of his deep voice and the awful news he reported. The good news is, he invented a stopwatch that ran backwards. How else do you let your fellow broadcaster know how much segment time was left while speaking on air?

So off to Hollywood in the 1950s, and presto a name change, we have Lorne Greene. Because everything is better if you spell it with an “e” at the end-e.

Which brings us to his wonderfully named wives. His first wife fabulously named, Rita Hands. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1960. His second wife, Nancy Deale—everything is better if you end it with an “e”, including marriage (or it would be pronounced mary-ag, ugh)—until his death in 1987.

Among his many colorful accomplishments he co-hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Betty White for nearly a decade from 1963 to 1972. He is probably more famous for his roles on Bonanza as Ben Cartwright and on Battle Star Galactica as Commander Adama.

And he enjoyed a country western/folk singing career off-camera. His only number one hit, Ringo, in 1964. In case you are confused it’s a song about Johnny Ringo, not Ringo Star. Both well named gentlemen.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Gump Worsley Had the Name and Face for Hockey

Drop the puck!

That means something in certain sections of our world.

It’s a phase that rolls off the tongue of English-speaking ice hockey fans. I can’t say I’m fluent in the Russian or Scandinavian equivalents. Nor the French, even though a good portion of my neighbors to the north might shout “déposer la rondelle!” (I’m trusting Google translator to capture the nuance) when the skating zebras are too slow on the draw when the players are waiting for them to toss the hard rubber sphere from their hand to the ice so they can swat their sticks, strategize and generally begin the organized mayhem mixed with artistic beauty that is their sport.

No mask needed. (From Wikipedia)

No mask needed. (From Wikipedia)

Which brings me to a goalie from the past, a man who was called by a funny name made famous decades later by a fictional savant who did many things well in a movie, not one of them playing hockey.

Gump Worsley was his name. Lorne John “Gump” Worsley, to be most formal, actually.

Stopping pucks was his specialty, in a long and pretty spectacular National Hockey League career that began in 1952 with the New York Rangers and ended in 1974 with the Minnesota North Stars. Yes, born in 1929 in Montreal, Worsley lasted 22 years in the NHL — in the days when the fellows who blocked pucks for a living did so manly and bare-faced, without a sliver of those face masks the fellows wear these days.

The puck stops here, said Gump Worsley. (Getty Images)

The puck stops here, said Gump Worsley. (Getty Images)

In fact, he was the second-to-last goalie in the league to put that vital protective gear. Asked why, he told the reporter: “My face is my mask.”

I remember seeing Gump play with a great amount of flair when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, before two goalies named Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure split duties for the Broadway Blueshirts, as the denizens of Madison Square Garden were called.

The eccentric Worsley was also known for his fear of flying, a trait that became more of a liability as the league expanded and road trips increasingly moved from land to air. In fact, in 1968, he famously broke down after a flight from Montreal to Chicago, and had to miss playing time to receive psychiatric treatment.

But he surely was beloved, up until his death of a heart attack in 2007 at the age of 77.

Two Canadian indie rock bands have recorded songs in his honor. Huevos Rancheros put out Gump Worsley’s Lament, and The Weakerthans released Elegy for Gump Worsley And Canadian band Sons of Freedom named an album Gump after Worsley.

So how did Lorne become Gump?

Inspiration for a nickhame. (From Wikipedia)

Inspiration for a nickhame. (From Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia: ” ‘Gump’ was given his nickname because friends thought he looked like comic-strip character Andy Gump.’ ”

Life wasn’t exactly like a box of chocolates, but not bad for this Gump. Not bad at all.

Here’s the source for Gump Worsley’s biography and photos.

Here’s the source for the photo of Sidney Smith’s comic The Gumps.

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Issur Danielovitch Demsky and other famous stage names

Howdy folks,

over this weekend, while taking a study break, I came across an amazing quiz about the real names of actors and actresses.

Issur Danielovitch Demsky... no seriously, that's his name!

Issur Danielovitch Demsky… no seriously, that’s his name!

Jennifer Anastassakkis isn’t too far from the name we know her by… except that last name is longer and far more letter-y.  (Hint: just stop paying attention after the first syllable of her last name).

Frances Ethel Gumm is so far from the stage name, there’s no resemblance whatsoever.

Everyone’s favorite Walker, Texas Ranger has a more Spanish-sounding first name than first realized, and there are some others that you can hope to guess…

but it’s super fun.

Issur Danielovitch Demsky… I’ll give you a huge hint… think about a famous TV captain, and and General MacArthur.

To get in on the action, try out…

this super fun “Stage Names” Sporcle quiz

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Swede Science : A Tale of Two Svantes

Today we’re going to talk about a topic some of you may know a lot about. Science.

Not seance. That’s something altogether different, and probably unscientific, unless we’re talking about science fiction, in which case anything goes. But I feel like I’ve gone off on a tangent here (there we go, tangents, those are science).



So when you’re searching for science, what better place is there to look than the home of lingonberry jam, lutefisk, and caviar in a tube? Yes, you guessed it, Missoula, Montana.
Just kidding, I’m talking about Sweden!
Sweden, that northern outpost of chilly smart people, was also home to two remarkable scientists working about a century apart with equally remarkable names.
First we find Svante Arrhenius. Professer Arrhenius did most of his work around the turn of the 20th century, specializing in physics and chemistry. Indeed, he is often referred to as one of the very founders of the science of physical chemistry. All you kids out there frustrated at your physics exams coming up, blame this guy.
In 1903 he became the first Swede to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (There have been four others since in case you were wondering, including this year’s winner Tomas Lindahl). He then became a lifetime member of the Nobel committee on Physics, which decides on who receives the prizes. Like any honorable scientist would, Svante then proceeded to arrange for prizes to be given to his friends, and campaign against them going to people he didn’t particularly like. That’ll happen when you put humans in charge of anything really.
No joke. Living large.

No joke. Living large.

Remarkably, Svante Arrhenius was the first to develop a theory of how greenhouse gas concentrations could affect the Earth’s surface temperatures as far back as 1896. His theories and postulations on the matter wound up impacting the science up to this day.
Which brings us to our other Svante, the marvelously named Svante PääboPääbo is an evolutionary geneticist, which I believe means he looks at what people and creatures are made of and tries to figure out how they got that way. For instance, he was instrumental in sequencing the Neanderthal genome. This led to them concluding, among other things, that there was some interbreeding between Neanderthals and other humans. Probably made for interesting dinner parties back in the caveman days. I believe this also means that if you want to start a real life Jurassic Park, you should call this guy to extract the DNA from those bug thingies.
These Neanderthal jeans may or may not have been sequenced by Dr. Svante.

These Neanderthal jeans may or may not have been sequenced by Dr. Svante.

In 2007, Pääbo was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Perhaps that will inspire more people to name their children Svante now. The somewhat eccentric list also included chessmaster Garry Kasparov, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, and General David Petraeus. Interesting company.
So there we have it. Two Svantes, much science. Let’s all celebrate their work today by heading out to IKEA and buying some Darpstorps.
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