Commerson's Fish


Dive for a while, and you're bound to run into a fish named after Commerson. But just who is Commerson, and why is so much named after him?

Philibert Commerson was a French naturalist from the mid-18th century. He is best known---especially for fish lovers---for circumnavigating the globe with Louise Antoine de Bougainville from 1766-1769. An astute observer, Commerson discovered many species of fish, as well as trees and plants.

  • Commerson's dolphin. We saw this species in our [guide to dolphins][] article. Commerson discovered this dolphin in the Strait of Magellan.
  • Commerson's frogfish. As with many circumnavigators, the Pacific was a great opportunity for European exploration, so this species of frogfish was particularly exciting. Look for it around the islands of Hawaii.
  • Common sucker. This sucker fish's genus name is Catostomus Commerson, and is sometimes called a sand sucker. It's fairly common in the United States.
  • Commerson's anchovy. Yup, he even has his own anchovy. These little guys live around Australia and Southern Asia.
  • Commerson's glassy. This tiny fish can be found off the coast of Africa, where Commerson spent the end of his life.
  • Commerson's sole. This fish has hardly any distinguishable fins. It lives in the mud in brackish waters in the Indo-West Pacific.
  • Commerson's mackerel. A type of Spanish mackerel in the west Pacific.
  • Commerson's sea pike. This is basically another name for a Great Barracuda.

Quite a list, and I'm not even sure that it's exhaustive. If anything, it shows that it pays off to be the first to go somewhere with an observant eye.

On the return trip to France in 1769, Commerson opted to stay behind on the islands of Mauritius and Madagascar. He died 4 years later.

Photo by prilfish