These creepy crawlies have some pretty talented namesakes - from Beyoncé's diva horsefly to Bono's jumping trapdoor spider
Taylor Swift has achieved just about every milestone a musician dreams of, but having a millipede named after her might just be the cherry on top. This weekend saw the announcement that the Nannaria swiftae had been officially named for the ‘Shake It Off’ singer. Even better, the millipede was discovered in Tennessee, the very state in which a teenage Taylor began her music career.
“Her music helped me get through the highs and lows of graduate school, so naming a new millipede species after her is my way of saying thanks,” said researcher Dr. Derek Hennen.
Naming a new species after your favourite artist may seem like a fairly unusual way to honour them, but the practice is actually more common than you might think. So common, in fact, that we’ve found 12 more fantastic examples (and these aren’t even all of them).
Shakira’s hips don’t lie, but they do move like they’ve been victim to a parasitic wasp, apparently. Researchers named this species of wasp Aleiodes shakira after observing the way in which caterpillars parasitized by the wasp curved and rolled – just like Shakira’s abdomen does when she belly dances.
What hasn’t Lady Gaga had named after her? Like Shakira, she has her own parasitic wasp – Aleiodes Gaga – thanks to researchers at the University of Thailand. She also has a treehopper, Kakaia gaga, so named because the two share the same ‘wacky fashion sense’. Beyond bugs, Gaga has been further honoured by the Gagadon genus of fossilised extinct mammals and has also leant her name to a family of 19 genderfluid ferns. Quite the resume.
No, it’s not a bee, but the Beyhive will be pleased to learn that the singer’s horsefly is still pretty fabulous. Scaptia beyonceae is described as the ‘all-time diva of flies’, with a bodacious rear end covered in thick yellow hairs that make it appear as if it has been dipped in gold. It’s not hard to see how researchers got their naming inspiration.
Sixty years after Johnny Cash recorded ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, a new species of tarantula was discovered near Folsom Prison and named after the singer-songwriter. The Aphonopelma johnnycashi is relatively harmless to humans and has even been sought after by some as a pet. It’s also fitting a tarantula named for the Man in Black would have a jet-black male of the species.
Okay, this one isn’t a bug exactly. Led Zeppelin’s Rain Frog, or Pristimantis ledzeppelin, is a small, brown species of frog that was discovered in the Andes. The band do have a couple of tracks in their back catalogue that reference rain (‘The Rain Song’, ‘Fool In The Rain’) but this doesn’t seem to be a deliberate tie between the band and the frog – the researchers were just big fans.
The flamboyant, fantastic Elton John might seem like a more fitting honouree for a butterfly or perhaps a flashy beetle. Instead, the Leucothoe eltoni is a tiny crustacean found in the coral reefs of Indonesia. Having listened to Elton John throughout his career, scientist Dr James Thomas made an interesting observation about the crustacean – it reminded him of the shoes worn by Elton in the movie Tommy.
Macrostylis metallicola is a tiny worm-like crustacean discovered in the Pacific Ocean. It has no eyes, lives in complete darkness, and dwells among metallic nodules. Whilst some might consider a small, blind worm to be an ill-fitting mascot for Metallica, they would be mistaken. “Now that’s one metal crustacean!” the band excitedly wrote on Twitter.
In contrast, Bono’s bug is fairly hardcore. The Aptostichus bonoi are nocturnal trapdoor spiders who leap out of their burrows to seize their prey and inject it with venom. What’s the link to Bono? Well, the species was first discovered in Joshua Tree National Park, which is why the bug is also known as Bono’s Joshua Tree trapdoor spider in reference to U2’s famous album.
Of all the creatures that it might not be so flattering to share a name with, a parasite might be top of the list. Beloved reggae singer Bob Marley gets the honour – the Gnathia marelyi is a parasite found in the Caribbean sea. Researcher Paul Sikkel isn’t making any kind of passive-aggressive point here, however, and has expressed genuine admiration for Marley. “This species is as uniquely Carribbean as was Marley,” is his justification.
Backed in the 70s by Spiders from Mars, Bowie already has an association with arachnids. And as spiders go, the Heteropoda davidbowie does a pretty good job of emulating the spirit of its honouree. This particular species of huntsman spider is covered in luscious blond hair just like Bowie’s (alright, maybe not just like) and has an altogether flamboyant appearance.
Synalpheus pinkfloydi is a snapping shrimp with a very prominent feature – a large claw in a fabulous shade of hot pink. That’s not even the most interesting characteristic of this species. When that claw is snapped, it can produce a sound up to 210 decibels, often killing nearby small fish. In the paper describing the new species, researchers wrote that the shrimp was “unlikely to occur on the Dark Side of the Moon due to lack of suitable habitat”. Incredibly, we haven’t made a single part of that up.
The species of flatworm known as Baicalellia daftpunka is so named because it reminded researchers of the helmets Daft Punk wear to perform – with one difference. The flatworm’s helmet isn’t on its head, but rather – ahem – lower down…