Archived News | Return to News Center

November 13, 2008

Newly-discovered fossil fish named for ULM professor and geologist

Most scientists recall pivotal moments in their professional lives, but perhaps no moment is as meaningful as when a scientist realizes his or her name is forever linked with a new discovery.

Such was the case with Dr. Gary L. Stringer, when colleagues in California named a 20-million year-old fossil fish for him.

Paleontologists Gary Takeuchi and Richard Huddleston of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles realized that they had uncovered a fossil fish entirely new to science, and they published their discovery in a recent issue of the Southern California Academy of Sciences.

Discoverers of a new organism have the privilege of naming it, and Drs.
Takeuchi and Huddleston agreed it fitting to name the fish Pogonias stringeri, in honor of Dr. Stringer, ULM's geosciences department head, who has spent a career studying fossil fishes.

The scientific name of a species is formed by the combination of two terms. The first name, which is capitalized, is the genus to which the organism belongs. The second name, which isn't capitalized, is the species.

Since all scientific names are in Latin, the second portion of the scientific name, is a Latinized version of Dr. Stringer's last name.

The name is appropriate for another reason: Pogonias stringeri has modern descendants that include the black drum and red drum in the Gulf of Mexico.

Red drum, which is more popularly called redfish in Louisiana, was first made famous by the chefs in New Orleans.

"It was such a surprise. I didn't even realize the new discovery was named for me until I was casually flipping through the article, and saw my name," said Dr. Stringer.

The article is titled, "A New Early Miocene Species of Pogonias (Teleostei: Sciaenidae) Based on Otoliths from California."

In the publication, Takeuchi and Huddleston wrote the following regarding their choice for the new fossil fish's species name:

"The species in named in honor of Dr. Gary L. Stringer, Professor of Geology, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Louisiana, in recognition of his contribution to the study of fossil fish otoliths, particularly in the Gulf Coast of North America."

Seldom do scientists experience the prestige of having a new species named after them, yet this is actually the second time that Dr. Stringer has been honored by fellow paleontologists in such a distinct way.

In 1993, Dr. Dirk Nolf of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Dr. David Dockery of the Mississippi Geological Survey named a newly discovered Paleocene (60-million year-old) fish from Alabama as Trachichthyidarum stringeri, dedicated to Dr. Stringer.

Clearly demonstrating the quality of faculty at ULM, another scientist at the university has been honored with a scientific name. Dr. Neil Douglas, Emeritus Professor of Biology at ULM, had a modern fish named after him in 1993, Etheostoma douglasi, for his outstanding work with freshwater fishes.

Interestingly, Dr. Douglas taught Dr. Stringer in graduate zoology courses when Stringer was a master's student in geology and paleontology at ULM (then Northeast Louisiana University).

Today, both scientists work in the ULM Museum of Natural History.

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.