Biologists will often honor a person who first discovered a species by naming it after them. It’s an age-old tradition, one that pays proper tribute to the contributions made to science by their incredible discovery.
However, the rules have loosened over the years. It seems like many scientists today believe that there is no problem with honoring people who have absolutely nothing to do with creature discovery: politicians, historical figures, athletes, and celebrities are the main source of inspiration. Several reasons could be given as to why scientists would do this, and most of them are just plain goofy. Such as …
10. Cirolana mercuryi – Freddie Mercury
Even though the legendary frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury, looked like your typical white European male, the truth is that he was born Farrokh Bulsara, to parents from the Parsi tribe of Zanzibar. This is the same country where a rare species of isopod was discovered, and since Mercury is the most famous person ever from Zanzibar, the biologists who made the discovery thought it only fair to name the species after him. This is how we ended up with Cirolana mercuryi becoming the second most famous thing Zanzibar ever produced.
9. Arthurdactylus conandoylei – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has been the Bible for lovers of dinosaurs and wildlife for over a century now. It tells the story of a place somewhere in the Amazon, where dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals still exist. And even though such stories may sound ridiculous today, back in 1912 (when the book was first published,) many readers believed the hype.
Back in 1994, two biologists named Eberhard Frey and David Martill named a genus of pterodactyloid pterosaur after Doyle, since his novel included extensive references to gigantic reptilian pterosaurs. This is how the pain-in-the-ass-to-spell Arthurdactylus conandoylei got its name.
8. Pachygnatha zappa – Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa was one of the most important musicians and composers of the 20th century. He produced and composed over 60 personal albums, while he collaborated with many other artists, from many different genres of music. Yet, for all his accolades and musical creativity, it seems like most people will remember him for his unique look, and even more unique fat mustache.
His mustache stood out so much that it inspired Robert Bosmans and Jan Bosselaers, two biologists from Belgium, to introduce the Pachygnatha zappa to the world. They named Pachygnatha zappa, a specific kind of spider, after him due to the spider’s uncommon markings that resembled the mustache of the famous rocker.
7. Agra schwarzeneggeri – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnie is probably one of the most successful people you could think of. He managed to become the youngest Mr. Olympia ever, and is widely considered the greatest bodybuilder of all time. He would then conquer Hollywood, soon becoming one of the highest-paid action stars of all time. His rising fame, and the numerous blockbuster films, earned him a star in the Walk of Fame, not to mention the governorship of California.
But it’s highly unlikely that Arnie ever imagined that he would inspire science too. Back in 2002, a rare species of carabid beetle was named Agra schwarzeneggeri, since the remarkably-developed middle femora of the males resembled Arnold’s extremely muscular biceps. Who says biologists don’t love working out?
6. Mastophora dizzydeani – Dizzy Dean
Dizzy Dean was a hell of a pitcher, and the last man to win 30 games in a season to date. Dean was known for his colorful personality; way before Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath, he liked to brag about his prowess and make public predictions. He would often act disrespectful toward his opponents as well.
The unusual hunting techniques of the bolas spiders of the tribe Mastophoreae reminded scientists of the antics, playing style, and excessive talent of Dean. These spiders make a large sticky ball on the end of a short thread and, just like an elite pitcher, chucks the ball at passing insects while hanging on another short, horizontal “trapeze” line. Just like Dean during his prime, Mastophora toys with its victims before executing them. This seems to be the main reason they got the name dizzydeani.
5. Dendropsophus stingi – Sting
Sting is one of the greatest, and most sensitive, rock stars of all time. He has used his music and talents as a weapon to bring people together, through numerous charities, concerts for the third world, and many collaborations with Arabic, Native American, African, and Eastern European artists in an attempt to bring different cultures closer. Along with being a great artist, Sting is undoubtedly a great man as well.
This is probably what ecologists were thinking as well, when they decided to give Sting’s name to a rare Colombian tree frog, recognizing Sting’s valuable charitable work for the rain forest. This is how we ended up with the term Dendropsophus stingi, which literally means “Sting’s tree frog”.
4. Campsicnemus charliechaplini – Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin was an early Hollywood star, famous for his characteristic facial expressions which could make viewers cry a mere minute after they were rolling on the floor laughing. Perhaps the most iconic aspect of Chaplin was his unusual style of walking, which eventually crossed over into the scientific world. Campsicnemus charliechaplini is a rare kind of fly that was named after the legendary actor, for a very unusual and creepy reason. When this fly dies, its mid-legs take a funny bandy-legged position, which apparently look exactly like Chaplin’s legs when he used to walk around all Chaplin-like.
3. Aptostichus bonoi – Bono (U2)
U2’s 1987 album The Joshua Tree is one of the biggest selling albums in history with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. It earned the Best Album Grammy award that year, and Rolling Stone ranked it in the top 30 albums of all time. And even if Bono and the rest of the band anticipated all this success, they never could have imagined the album’s name would end up shared with a morphological species of wafer trapdoor spider. Since this spider was found in Joshua Tree National Park, California, its discoverers named it Bono’s Joshua Tree Trapdoor Spider, or Aptostichus bonoi for short.
2. Norasaphus monroeae – Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is the prototypical Hollywood sex symbol, remembered fondly for her curves, her sultry voice, and her iconic appearances in Playboy magazine. Speaking of her incredible body and curves, it seems that the scientists who discovered a new species of trilobite had a thing for her. They decided that the trilobite’s hourglass-like shape reminded them of Monroe’s curves (not to mention her bottom.) Thus, they named the trilobite Norasaphus monroeae, after both Monroe and her given name, Norma Jean (Nora, Norma — close enough for science.)
1. Scaptia beyonceae – Beyonce
Beyoncé Knowles is one of the most successful musicians in recent years, as well as a contender for Marilyn Monroe’s World Sexiness Championship Title. It is that sexiness, in fact, that has immortalized her in the wacky world of science. A group of researchers decided to take a previously unnamed species of horse fly, and name it Scaptia beyonceae. But they didn’t choose that name simply because they liked her music; according to them, the horsefly has a distinct golden-colored behind that reminded them of Beyoncé’s. According to them, this bug is the “all-time diva of flies.”
That’s all well and good, but can science get us a J-Lo bug too? Maybe a dragonfly inspired by Nicki Minaj? For science, of course.