Guam students get to name snailfishes

From left: Aliana Roces, Danica Nicomedes, Alyssa Roces, Coach Geraldine Nucum, Venus Villanueva and Kouta Hernandez. (Contributed photo)

Two local students recently learned that the names they chose for a contest they participated in four years ago have been chosen for a new marine species.

It takes a long time to name a fish. These snailfishes have been nameless since their discovery by scientists in the 1980s.

FishBowl is an annual academic challenge that focuses on all things marine and in 2017, it was open to all schools in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The grand prize was the honor of naming the fish.

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Local students, Aydan Charfauros, then in 4th grade, Alyssa Roces and her team members then from Okkodo High School, were the winners and chose the names, Paraliparis kadada’kaleguak and Paraliparis echongpachot based on the snailfishes’ outward appearance.

Aydan Charfauros

“I chose the name echongpachot which means crooked mouth in CHamoru and I thought it would be a good name because it was really simple but it kind of described the whole snailfish. I was like, hmmm maybe this could work and it ended up … that’s the one I chose,” Charfauros said.

For her part, Roces said: “As we look at pictures of the snailfish, we noticed the short rib bones and we paid close attention to that feature and we kind of named it in that sense. I don’t know, we wanted to sound super cool name and we wanted people to be like, oh, this is the type of fish a group of high school students named.”

Both students chose CHamoru language-based names because they wanted to use this opportunity to showcase the culture they grew up with.

“When we first heard to make up a name, we thought it would be cool to use our own language. We thought it would be boring to be using any other language like Greek, Roman, it’s very common names. So we thought we could use our own tongue and try to make up a name,” Charfauros said.

“Even though half of us are not really CHamoru, might as well give some pride or some recognition for our island that our island has these types of students to give some spark or some light to our island like we raised these kids and they’re willing to give just more exposure and everything,” Roces said.

Both Charfauros and Roces felt honored to know that to know that they have become a part of scientific history.

Although Roces is currently a Visual Communications major at the Guam Community College, she hopes that the experience she and Charfauros have will inspire other students to pursue more science-based programs like Fishbowl to be more informed.