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Volume 17, Number 9—September 2011

Etymologia: Pseudoterranova azarasi

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To the Editor: Regarding the March 2011 Etymologia on Pseudoterranova azarasi (1), we think that someone literally missed the boat on the derivation of Pseudoterranova. Although the Greco-Latin amalgam, Pseudoterranova, translates to “false new earth,” the generic name of the organism refers to the ship, the Terra Nova, which Robert Falcon Scott captained en route to Antarctica exactly 100 years ago in his ill-fated attempt to be the first person to reach the South Pole.

During the Antarctic summer of 1911–12, while Scott and 4 companions trudged toward the South Pole, the ship’s surgeon, Edward Leicester Atkinson, who remained with the Terra Nova, dissected polar fish, birds, and sea mammals, looking for parasites. Atkinson found an unusual nematode in a shark, and in 1914, he, along with parasitologist Robert Thomson Leiper of the London School of Tropical Medicine, commemorated the ship by conferring the name Terranova antarctica upon this newly discovered creature (2).

The genus Pseudoterranova was established by Aleksei Mozgovoi in 1951 for a somewhat similar nematode obtained from a pygmy sperm whale. Pseudoterranova azarasi, the subject of the Etymologia, was originally described in 1942 as Porrocecum azarasi, but recent molecular work, as described by Arizono et al. (3) and Mattiucci and Nascetti (4), showed that this nematode is part of a large species complex within Pseudoterranova. Thus, it has been transferred to this genus as part of the P. decipiens species complex.

The nomenclatural specifics are complex and arcane. However, in this centennial year of the Terra Nova expedition, we think it is worthwhile to remember the historic origins of these names.


Scott A. NortonComments to Author  and David I. Gibson
Author affiliations: Author affiliations: Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA (S.A. Norton); Natural History Museum, London, UK (D.I. Gibson)



  1. Etymologia: Pseudoterranova azarasi. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17:571.
  2. Leiper  RT, Atkinson  EL. Helminthes of the British Antarctic expedition 1910–1913. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1914:222–6.
  3. Arizono  N, Miura  T, Yamada  M, Tegoshi  T, Onishi  K. Human infection with Pseudoterranova azarasi roundworm [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17:555.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Mattiucci  S, Nascetti  G. Advances and trends in the molecular systematics of anisakid nematodes, with implications for their evolutionary ecology and host–parasite co-evolutionary processes. Adv Parasitol. 2008;66:47148. DOIPubMedGoogle Scholar


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DOI: 10.3201/eid1709.110541

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Scott A. Norton, 7506 Tarrytown Rd, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA

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Page created: September 06, 2011
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