Sexism in the naming of worms

We are told today (The Times) that there is sexism in the naming of parasitic worms and that it must be stamped out. The bias in the naming of parasitic worms is apparent from the fact that well over a third of the authors of scientific papers describing new parasitic worms are women and yet of 596 species named after eminent scientists only 111 or 18.6% have been named in honour of female scientists. The information has been reported on by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Parasitic worms are usually named after male scientists
Parasitic worms are usually named after male scientists. Photo: Pixabay.

The researchers also claimed that there was “etymological nepotism and cronyism” in the naming of helminths which is the technical name for parasitic worms. They were arguing that there is a tendency for taxonomists to name new species after a family member or close friend. And this cronyism has tended to increase over the past 20 years, they report. This seems to increase the male bias in naming.

The study concluded: “We found a consistent gender bias among species named after eminent scientists, with male scientists being immortalised disproportionately more frequently than female scientists”. The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

They found that there was no improvement in respect of gender bias over the past two decades. The names of only eight women were used in the Latin names of two or more species out of 71 reported on.

Eight scientists had lent their names to 6 or more species. The scientists were all men. One expert on worms, Dr. David Gibson, has his name immortalised in the naming of 13 species of roundworm, flatworm and tapeworm. He works at the Natural History Museum in London.

Parasitic worms are endoparasites. In the world of cats, they are very common especially in cats allowed outside to prey upon small mammals such as mice. Often stray cats simply get used to their presence.

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