The name is all Greek to us. The Greek word kope means oar, and podos means foot - so copepod literally means oar-footed, a reference to the shape of their swimming legs. The Germans call them Ruderfusskrebse and the Dutch call them Roeipootkreeft, both of which mean, surprisingly enough, oar-footed shrimps. The Norwegians, however, base their name on the typically jerky swimming motion of copepods and call them Hoppekrebs. They don't have a collective common name in English although some species have gained sufficient notoriety to have been awarded the prize of a common name of their own. High up in the rogues gallery are the sealice - members of the family Caligidae which are parasitic on fishes. In direct treatment costs and in lost production, two sealice species (Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus elongatus) are responsible for commercial losses in excess of $100 million per year to the salmon farming industry in the Northern Hemisphere. Another parasitic copepod with a name of its own is the gill maggot (Salmincola salmoneus) - another parasite of the poor salmon. Parasitic copepod species tend to be larger than free-living ones and have been known since antiquity - even Aristotle wrote about them.

As far as we know the first person to propose the use of the name Copepoda for this group of crustaceans was a French scientist, Henri Milne Edwards, in his Histoire Naturelle des Crustacés published in 1840. Thank you, Henri. The naming of animals is governed by a set of rules (The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature) which ensures that every species of animals has one and only one valid scientific name (which is, by convention, always written in italics). The main way of achieving this is by applying the principle of priority - which basically means the first person to use a name for a particular species or group of animals gets to have his or her name used for ever! So don't blame us for inventing the name Lepeophtheirus salmonis - the "credit" for that falls to the Danish zoologist Henrik Krøyer who presumably had a sudden rush of blood to the head way back in 1837!

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