Forsskål's use of Arabic names for fish species

Peter Forsskål was a Swedish scientist who did a taxonomical classification of animals of the Red Sea region, and used the Arabic name as the species name.BiographyPeter Forsskål was born in Finland, but his family moved to Sweden. His first name was spelled Peter (English), Petrus (Latin), and Pehr. His last name was spelled as Forskål, Forsskål and Forskal.He studied under Carl Linnaeus, the founder of modern taxonomy. Linnaeus recommended him to King Frederick V of Denmark for a scientific expedition to Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia, today's Yemen).The expedition left in 1760 and went to Egypt, then via the Red Sea to Jeddah and Yemen. Forsskål did a very meticulous and systematic taxonomy of the sea life in that part of the world, including many fish species previously unknown to science.Forsskål died in Yemen in 1763, as well as others who accompanied the expedition, Carsten Niebuhr being the only survivor.WorksHis work was published posthoumously by Neibuhr in 1775, a full 12 years after Forskaal's death.His main works are:

  • Petrus Forskål: Descriptiones Animalium - Avium, amphiborum, insectorum, vermium quæ in itinere orientali observavit Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. København, 1775.
  • Petrus Forskål: Flora Ægyptiaco-Arabica sive descriptiones plantarum quas per Ægyptum Inferiorem et Arabiam felicem detexit, illustravit Petrus Forskål Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. København 1775.
  • Petrus Forskål: Materia Medica ex Officina Pharmaceutica Kahiræ Descripta. This was the last chapter of the book contained Forsskål notes on what pharmacists used in Cairo, the ingredients, preparation, ...etc. The manuscript contains some Arabic, and is preserved in the Royal Library of Denmark.

Taxonomical approachMany of the fish in the Red Sea today still have Forsskål on their taxonomy name, whether you are looking them up in a book, or on Fishbase.Forsskål followed a very easy and consistent system, he used the common name in Arabic of the fish as the species name.Table of fish species with Arabic names Latin Arabic Common Name CommentsAbudefdufأبو دفدفSeargent Major spp.Acanthopagrus berdaبردة ؟Picnic seabreamAcanthurus gahhmقحمDusky Surgeonfish Acanthurus sohalسحلSohal Surgeonfish, Red Sea Surgeonfish Aethaloperca rogaaرقعة ؟Redmouth Grouper Alepes djedabaجدابةShrimp scad Carangoides bajadبياضOrangespotted TrevallyBeing a Swede, the J is the Y sound Carangoides ferdauفرد ؟Blue Trevally Chaetodon abudafarأبو دفر ؟Whitetailed dascyllusNow Dascyllus aruanus Chirocentrus dorabضرابDorab Worlf-Herring Elops machnataمخناطة ؟Tenpounder Epinephelus summanaسمانةSumman GrouperBeing a Swede, the V letter was a W sound Epinephelus tauvinaتوينةGreasy or Spotted GrouperGerres oyenaعيينة ؟Common silver-biddyHemiramphus farفارSpotted halfbeakHimantura uarnakورنكHoneycomb StingrayHipposcarus haridحريدRedlined ParrotfishLethrinus harakحركBlackspot EmperorLethrinus mahsenaمحسنةYelowtailed EmperorLethrinus ramakرمكYellowbanded BreamLutjanus boharبوهارTwospot Red SnapperLutjanus kasmiraكسميرة ؟Bluestriped snapper, Bluestripe snapperMormyrus kannumeكنومة ؟Elephant snout fishMyripristis murdjanمرجانRed SquirrelfishNeoniphon sammaraسمارةLonchin SoldierfishPastinachus sephenسفنCowtail Stingray Platax teiraطيرةLongfin Batfish Plectorhinchus schotafشطفSweetlipPomacanthus asfurعصفورArabian Angelfish, Red Sea Angelfish Priacanthus hamrurحمرورDuskyfin Bulleye, ScadRhabdosargus haffaraحفارةHaffara seabream Rhabdosargus sarbaصربةGoldlined seabream Rhinobatos halaviحلوي ؟Halavi's guitarfish Rhynchobatus djiddensisDjiddensis means “of Djeddah”, meaning the city of Jeddah where Forskal has collected lots of his specimens Scarus ghobbanغبانFlame ParrotfishScolopsis ghanamغنمArabian Monocle BreamScomberoides lysanلسانLargemouthed Leatherskin SiganusسجانRabbitfishesSillago sihamaسهمةNorthern WhitingTaeniura lymmaلمة ؟Bluespotted StingrayTerapon jarbuaجربوعTigerfishThryssa baelamaبيلمة ؟Hairfin Anchovy Valamugil seheliسهليةBluespot MulletVariola loutiلوتيLunartailed GrouperA list of 155 fish species that Forskal classified can be found on this page.More information on Forskal

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The Danish expedition to Arabia

The 6 members of the expedition left Copenhagen at the beginning of 1761 (not 1760 as above),
4 died around mid-1763, and the 5th at the beginning of 1764.
Carsten Niebuhr, the geographer, was on his own from that time until Nov. 1767, when he returned to Copenhagen, after crossing from the Chatt el Arab through Turkey and the Balkans, nearly full 7 years away.
Niebuhr did not publish his 3rd book until 1778, well after he had published his friend Forsskal' notes and drawings, in 1775, an action which cost him much work, and a lot of money.

this last sentence is designed to delete the despising formula above: "was published posthoumously by Neibuhr in 1775, a full 12 years after Forskaal's death".