Everybody runs out of ideas. With that in mind,I ask you: what would you name a new species, if you’d ever discover one? Tough to say, I know. Even taxonomists have that problem, which is why they’ve turned to celebrities and media icons to name newly discovered species. With 8.7 million left to be discovered in 2011, I guess there’s plenty to do, and name.
I’m not sure if this is that of a smart idea, but I guess it’s true that naming bugs and bacteria after celebrities/icons makes everyone pay more attention to the natural world around them. Here are 10 famous species from that bunch.
10. Bootylicious Horse Fly
Discovered in Australia by Bryan Lessard, the Scaptia Plinthina beyonceae is a horsefly that is recognizable by its golden booty. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) researcher decided to name the pest after the pop star not only for its shimmering derriere, but also because the insect was discovered in 1981-the year of Beyoncé’s birth.
9. Sea Creatures of the Depp
Extinct for over 500 million years, the Kooteninchela deppi was a tiny sea creature with pincers that scoured that shallower waters for food. The distant relative of what we now know as crabs and lobsters was named for Johnny Depp after David Legg decided that the arthropod resembled the actor’s portrayal of Edward Scissorhands.
8. Gaga Plant Life
Remember the Grammys in 2010? Now try to remember what Lady Gaga wore to the gig. Apparently, a group of Duke University scientists were so in awe of the green Armani dress and its resemblance to a gametophyte that they decided to name a group of 19 fern species after the eccentric’s singer’s wardrobe choice.
7. Spider Woman
We saw this one coming. The Aptostichus angelinajolieae is a trapdoor spider found on the coast of Northern California, best known for its ability to build homes which they then jump out of to grab their prey. Scientist Jason Bond named the spider for Jolie; he has also named spiders after Nelson Mandela, Neil Young, Bono, Stephen Colbert and of course, his own dear wife.
6. Obama Lichen
Another Californian discovery, this fire-hued lichen has been named Caloplaca obamae, after president Barack Obama. University of California’s Kerry Knudsen, who is a lichen curator, named the sponge-like composite organism in appreciation to Obama, for his “support of science.” The fungus, native to Santa Rosa, faced extinction due to extensive cattle ranching and deer/elk grazing, but thankfully.
5. Playboy Bunny
The mastermind behind Playboy, Hugh Hefner, has had a bunny named after him. The rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, was originally identified in the eighties, and is native to the marshlands of Florida. Honestly though, it was a genius move by the scientists, since Hefner has graciously donated some of his dollars to research the rabbit, which is said to be on the endangered species list.
4. Kate Winslet
A carabid beetle, or ground beetle, has been named after buxom beauty Kate Winslet, in honour of her performance in James Cameron’s The Titanic. The shimmering beetle, named Agra katewinsletae, might not be so lucky, as the continued loss of the rainforests may lead to the extinction of this little bug.
3. Hasselhoff Crab
A crab named after Baywatch alum David Hasselhoff is worth a mention. “The Hoff” crab, which is also part of the yeti (crab) family, lives almost 2000 m below the sea, with little to no light or oxygen, which may explain its albino appearance. Discovered in 2011, these crabs gather in groups of 600 per square meter.
2. Harrison Ford
The Star Wars and Indiana Jones star is a hot commodity. Harrison Ford is named for not one, but two species’ discoveries. Both namesakes have been made in thanks to Ford for his work, from the narration of a documentary and to recognize his work in the conservation field. The ant, Pheidole harrisonfordi was discovered in Honduras, while the spider, Calponia harrisonfordi, is native to California.
1. Frank Zappa
There’s just something about Frank Zappa’s face the taxonomists love. There are over four species whose names have been inspired by the composer. The first is a fossil snail named Amaurotoma zappa. Then there is a jellyfish, named Phialella zappai by biologist Ferdinando Boero just so that he could meet the famed musician, while another scientist named a genus of goby fish (Zappa) after Zappa in honour of music and general awesomeness. If that isn’t enough, there’s also a spider named Pachygnatha zappa from Cameroon that bears Zappa’s name, due to the fact that the spider’s markings bear resemblance to Frank’s moustache.