A murder of crows and a stipple of whale sharks?

(A Crow Left of the Murder is a particularly excellent Incubus album, btw)

One of the recent papers out of my group describes an unprecedented aggregation of whale sharks in Yucatan Mexico.  Prompted in large part by a Twitter exchange with @Sharksneedlove, I have decided that “aggregation”, while utilitarian and certainly descriptive, is about as interesting as being stuck in traffic with the radio knob broken off  on the NPR pledge drive (“good times…. good times…”)  Apparently a “shiver” is the collective noun for sharks but that doesn’t seem too helpful either.  To that end, you and I are going to come up with a better collective noun for whale sharks.  I can’t work out how to make a poll here, so I have a list of candidates and I ask you to cast your vote in the comments.  If you’ve got a better suggestion, lets hear that too.  Whatever the consensus result, I pledge here to roll it out and try to get it adopted at the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference in October.  C’mon, it’s a rare chance for the Deep Sea News community to make linguistic history!

OK, here’s my 5 best ideas:

  1. A stipple of whale sharks
  2. A spatter of whale sharks
  3. A maculation of whale sharks
  4. A gulp of whale sharks
  5. A polka of whale sharks
  6. Other (insert in comments)

EDIT – Based on early votes here, on Twitter and on Facebook, “a gulp” seems to be the early leader.  I really like “a constellation” though.  Keep ‘em coming!

EDIT 2 – What a terrific response.  Between the comments, several social media streams and the folks at iO9, here’s the compiled list of suggestions as of 9pm, with the vote counts (over 1) after:

  1. An academy (a school of fish, so an academy of whale sharks…) (2)
  2. An agro
  3. An armada (2)
  4. An armory
  5. An array
  6. A barrier
  7. A basking
  8. A batallion
  9. A blitzkreig
  10. A bloop
  11. A blubber
  12. A bonanza
  13. A brigade (2)
  14. A campaign
  15. A clowder
  16. A clunge
  17. A coalescence
  18. A compound
  19. A constellation (3)
  20. A cow
  21. A crew
  22. A cruise
  23. A dance
  24. A deck
  25. A dollop
  26. A drift
  27. An expedition
  28. A faux
  29. A filtrum
  30. A fleet (6)
  31. A flotilla (2)
  32. A galaxy
  33. A glide
  34. A gulp (4)
  35. A herd
  36. A holler
  37. A holy shit (cos thats what you say when you see one) (2)
  38. A hootenany (2)
  39. A hullabaloo
  40. An indecision (are they whales, or are they sharks?)
  41. A kerfuffle
  42. A kingdom (2)
  43. A maculation (2)
  44. A mirage
  45. A misconstruing
  46. A mottle
  47. A murder (3)
  48. A murmur
  49. A navy
  50. A nom
  51. An OMFG
  52. An orca (just to reinforce the confusion)
  53. A pack
  54. A party
  55. A passel
  56. A platoon
  57. A pod
  58. A polka (5)
  59. A quiver
  60. A reckoning
  61. A reef
  62. A row
  63. A savaging
  64. A school
  65. A scoop
  66. A scowling
  67. A skim
  68. A slaughter
  69. A smash
  70. A snark
  71. A spangle
  72. A spatter (2)
  73. A squad
  74. A squadron
  75. A stipple (2)
  76. A striation
  77. A swoop
  78. A tale
  79. A temple
  80. A terror
  81. A threat
  82. A university
  83. An unnerving
  84. A vacuum
  85. A vastness
  86. A waffle
  87. A waggle (2)
  88. A wallop (2)
  89. A whelm
  90. A whelming
  91. A whimper
  92. A whopping
  93. A jawdropping
  94. A pantheon
  95. A kimono
  96. A bongo
  97. A void
  98. A cluster
  99. A lance
  100. A belt
  101. A scare

Thus the leading contenders (at 4/9/13 1401hrs) are:

  1. A fleet (6)
  2. A polka (10)
  3. A gulp (4)
  4. A murder (3)
  5. A constellation (16)
  6. A brigade (2)
  7. A flotilla (2)
  8. A galaxy (2)
  9. A holy shit (cos that’s what you say when you see one) (2)
  10. A hootenany (2)
  11. A kingdom (2)
  12. A maculation (2)
  13. A spatter (2)
  14. A stipple (2)
  15. A wallop (2)
  16. An academy (a school of fish, so an academy of whale sharks…) (4)
  17. An armada (2)
  18. A waggle (3)
  19. A posse (2)

Unfortunately I am forced to summarily disqualify “a murder” since that’s already used for crows, “a fleet” because that’s also used for several birds, and “a gulp” which is used for cormorants.  That means that “a polka” and “a constellation” are leading, and then a whole bunch more.  You can continue to vote in the comments or make more suggestions.  This is great, you guys are so creative!

EDIT 3 (4/9/13 1656hrs) – In the absence of additional votes and with a clear leader, I declare the contest over.  The winner is

“A CONSTELLATION OF WHALE SHARKS”

Thanks to everyone who contributed for all of the awesome suggestions and to everyone who voted here, on Facebook, on Twitter and other sites.  Your input is much appreciated.  As I first said, I’ll plan to roll it out at the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference in October if not in print before then.

Alistair Dove (140 Posts)

Dr. Alistair Dove is a systematic and ecological parasitologist by training, with broader research interests in the natural history and health of marine animals, especially whale sharks. He is currently Director of Research and Conservation at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta USA. His comments here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Georgia Aquarium





, , ,
37 comments on “A murder of crows and a stipple of whale sharks?
  1. I was going to suggest “gulp” myself, but I see that occurred to you too, so that’s obviously my vote.

  2. I’m fond of gulp. Polka is endearing, but puts a lot of Weird Al songs in my head and they’re all playing at once. I also like spatter and stipple, as I have done both of those while painting them. I am very unhelpful! I like everything!

    More suggestions:
    1. A deck of whale sharks (like dominoes! Or a “set” I suppose)
    2. A vacuum of whale sharks (referencing feeding, buuut also sounds like the opposite of what you’re going for here – alternatively, it’s an awesome sci-fi premise)
    3. A dollop of whale sharks (tee hee)

    That’s all I can come up with for a Monday.

  3. or, a whelming of whale sharks

    whelming: Verb
    1) Engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something): “a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm”.
    2) Flow or heap up abundantly.

    The only place I’ve seen in used is as the ship is sinking in Moby Dick. Usually its used as a part of overwhelming.

  4. 1) A Bonanza of whale sharks

    2) An indecision of whale sharks (are they whales? are they sharks?)

  5. I like ‘polka’, but would also propose ‘wallow’. A wallow of whalesharks. Rolls off the tongue. Fun idea!

  6. Ah! I like them all!

    I agree with Anne though, constellation & academy are my favourite.

  7. Off this list, “Polka”. But I would call a group of Whale sharks “A Big steaming Pile”. “look there Yonder, There is a Big steaming Pile of Whale sharks!”.

  8. For anyone having trouble deciding: adding an extra layer of coolness to the suggestion “constellation”, in Madagascar whale sharks are called “marokintana”, which means “many stars”.

  9. Your stats must be spiking.

    a void of whale sharks
    a cluster of whale sharks
    a lance of whale sharks
    a belt of whale sharks

    Additionally, some animals share their aggregate term with other animals (examples escape me), so you could still use gulp etc. Logically, we also therefore need an aggregate for aggregate nouns.

  10. My immediate thought before I saw the suggestions was WALLOP – partly because I like alliterative collective nouns, and partly because I think it recognizes their size and power without making them sound vicious or aggressive.

    However, having read the other suggestions here, I think I’m going to have to vote for CONSTELLATION ! How cool.

Comments are closed.