What is the meaining of "Emydidae"?
March 26, 2013 5:16 PM   Subscribe

"Emydidae" is the name of a family of turtles. What I want to know is what does the name *mean*. I have exhausted my google-fu and the best I've been able to find is this wiktionary link that gives a meaning for "-idae" as "appearance". Any reptile/turtle fans care to enlighten me?
posted by moss free to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Emys" means "freshwater tortoise" according to this.

The ending -idae is just what they attach to biological names of this rank. It doesn't strictly have any real meaning here.
posted by Jehan at 5:26 PM on March 26, 2013

Indeed, it would seem there is a genus of turtles simply called Emys.
posted by Jehan at 5:27 PM on March 26, 2013

here's a pebble on the path to the answer: "derived from the Greek word emus, ἐμύς"

Google translate tells me that "ἐμύς" means "emύs" in English, so that's not a huge help.
posted by colin_l at 5:28 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, I came up with the same link as colin_l, but just a few minutes slower.
posted by aubilenon at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2013

It was apparently coined by T H Huxley, if that helps.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

this one *may* suggest a source for the ancient usage: "Plin. 32, 4, 14, § 32." - but I'm not a classics buff and unsure *exactly* what it's citing. I'd *guess* something by a Pliny.
posted by colin_l at 5:35 PM on March 26, 2013

Best answer: The "abbreviations" link on that latinlexicon.org site says:
Plin. C. Plinius Secundus (major) ob. A.D. 79

H. N., Historia Naturalis (usu. undesignated).

Plin. C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus (minor), ob. A.D. 113

Ep., Epistulae.
Pan., Panegyricus.

Plin. Val. C. Plinius Valerianus, physic. (the last book is a later addition), ob.(?) A.D. 400
So i have no idea which Plinius it's citing, but definitely suggests these turtles have been called "emys" since time immemorial.
posted by colin_l at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2013

Best answer: It will be the Elder Pliny, who wrote Natural History. But it's not a good source as the root is Greek and Pliny wrote in Latin.

Also, T H Huxley was not the first person to use Emydidae. The originators of biological names such as this are often wellknown and indeed are even listed in Wikipedia. In this case it is Constantine Rafinesque who came up with the grouping, but Thomas Bell who first proposed this name for it.
posted by Jehan at 5:47 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here's a translation of the cited chapter of Pliny. It doesn't add much.
The tortoise, too, is an animal that is equally amphibious with the beaver, and possessed of medicinal properties as strongly developed; in addition to which, it claims an equal degree of notice for the high price which luxury sets upon its shell, and the singularity of its conformation. Of tortoises, there are various kinds, land tortoises, sea tortoises, tortoises which live in muddy waters, and tortoises which live in fresh; these last being known to some Greek authors by the name of "emydes."
posted by reynaert at 6:06 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Though his sixty-six remedies and observations are worth reading.
posted by reynaert at 6:12 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: so it looks like Emydidae just means freshwater turtle in ancient Greek. i guess they can't all be as exciting as "terrible lizard".

thanks for all the research, i especially enjoyed Pliny's sixty-six turtle-based remedies.
posted by moss free at 6:24 PM on March 26, 2013

Obviously answered, but the thing here is that the higher you go on the tree of life, the more essential you get (at least among the higher chordates). Turtles are something known to the Ancient Greeks; dinosaurs are not. The modern discoveries are going to have modern names, sometimes portmanteaus, to distinguish them from the ones named since antiquity.
posted by dhartung at 3:30 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is slightly more to it than just Emys means fresh water turtle. The suffix -idae is a standard suffix for the taxonomic rank of family.

So Emydidae = family of turtles.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:14 AM on March 27, 2013

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