What’s In A Name?

 

Okay, let’s play a spelling bee game.

 

How to play: (1) Look at the following scientific names for 10 seconds. (2) Scroll down the page until you can’t see the names. (3) Take out a black pen and a piece of paper. (4) Write down the names. (5) No cheating! (6) Check if you have spelled any correctly.

 

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Drosophila melanogaster

Lepus curpaeums

 

So, has anyone got all names correctly spelled? If yes, here’s your cookie.

 

If not, don’t worry. Because let’s be honest, scientific names are not easy to remember! (I googled the names above and copy pasted them as I was typing this blog post).

 

Throughout all the years of me being a biologist, the biggest confusion I have always had is: why do scientists always have to make the hardest/weirdest/impossibletospell scientific names ever?! Why can’t they call Saccharomyces cerevisiae “Winemakingi yeastie” or something along that line?

 

But in recent years, I think some modern scientists have finally come to realize that playing spelling bee in the lab on a daily basis isn’t really that fun. Since everyone loves the tabloid, they had decided to name some newly found species with references to famous celebrities and pop culture!

 

Here are my Top 5 Favourites!

 
 

#5 Agathidium vaderi

 

 

Behold all Star Wars fans out there!

 

This black beetle is named after Darth Vader, Dark Lord of Sith – simply because its shiny black head and slit-like eyes represent the movie character.

 

The Darth Vader beetle is found in North Carolina. At 3mm, it is small but mighty – unlike most insects (and the Dark Lord himself), it does not routinely lose its limbs. The force is strong with this one.

 

Now the scientists only need to give it a light saber and find him an A. Lukeskywalkeri.

 
 

#4 Gaga

 

 

A group of scientist from the Duke University decided to name an entire genus of fern Gaga after pop icon Lady Gaga, and they had the best reasons:

 

1. Lady Gaga in her heart-shaped Armani Prive stage costume during her performance in 2010 Grammy Awards looked exactly like the Gaga ferns.

 

2. The Gaga ferns carry a unique signature GAGA (guanine-adenine-guanine-adenine) DNA sequence, which distinguishes them from other ferns.

 

As a side note, the scientists even went into the extend of naming a Gaga species with Lady Gaga’s original surname: Gaga germanotta. (Lady Gaga was born Stefani Germanotta).

 

I’m expecting to bump into these scientists in a Lady Gaga’s concert.

 

 

#3 Scaptia beyonceae

This fly is named after pop star Beyoncé because it has the same extreme diva feature seen in the singer herself: a big gold butt.

 

Scientists who named it said that it was the unique dense golden hairs on the fly’s abdomen that give it the prominent golden behind – making it “all-time diva of flies”.

 

Beyoncé’s bootylicious bottom is now forever immortalized – in the name of a fly with a golden butt.

 
 

#2 Agra schwarzeneggeri

 

The Agra schwarzeneggeri beetle is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger because its middle pair of legs has an unusually enlarged segment – which reminded scientists about bulging biceps of the bodybuilder/actor/governor/whatelsedoeshedo.

 

Nope, the beetle doesn’t lift. That’s its natural physique. Lucky.

 

 

Finally, hands down to my favourite species name of all time…

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

#1 Spongiforma squarepantsii

 

 

Spongiforma squarepantsii is a fungus named after the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants – simply because it looks like a sponge, and even acts like one.

 

First, it has big hollows holes, just like a sponge. Secondly, when it’s wet and moist, you can wring water out of it and it will spring back to its original size. How cool is that?

 

Only if it has a friend called Patricki Starii.

 
 
 

If you can rename any existing species with any celebrity name, what would you name with whom?

 

 

 

Vivian Loh is an MBiotech candidate in the University of Melbourne. Her favourite animal is the bunny, which has the scientific name of Lepus curpaeums. If she could rename it, she would call a bunny Bugsii Bunnyii.


5 Responses to “What’s In A Name?”

  1. Charlotte says:

    The fact that Spongiforma squarepantsii is actually a scientific name has just made my day 🙂

  2. canewton says:

    Fantastic! All scientific names should be like this! I particularly like Preseucoila imallshookupis – named after Elvis Presley’s song All Shook Up.

  3. suyar says:

    Haha love this post!!

  4. karenm says:

    Great read! In my lab, one of the researchers has a bug named after him! Acizzia veski (his last name is Vesk) I think that’s pretty great. I find the meanings of scientific names really interesting, I have a book called “the names of plants” and it is a dictionary for the scientific names of Australian plants. One of my favourite plants is the NSW Waratah, and it’s scientific name “Telopia” means “seen at a distance” which is very appropriate as it is has very large, very bright red flowers. What I find most annoying about plant names is when it is named after someone and it doesn’t help you with identification, names that tell you something about what the plant looks like are helpful. e.g. if the name has ‘oides’ on the end then it means that that plant looks like whatever the first part of the name is. This can be very helpful, e.g. Asparagoides looks like asparagus! 🙂

  5. Meagan Lane says:

    This is a very cool post and I had no idea that scientists had done this! I knew they named them after themselves but not celebrities. As far as naming an species after a celebrity nothing really springs to mind.