If you could choose, which animal would you want to be named after you? A bear, a gazelle or perhaps a sloth? Alright, in most cases, you wouldn’t have a right to a say in the matter. Although a few researchers name their new zoological discoveries after their beloved partner, all too often this honour is reserved for celebrities. And they, seldomly, can decide whether, from now on, their name is associated with a flabby jellyfish or a snappish insect.
Often, however, it’s remarkable similarities, which inspire the animal discoverers. Not long ago, a Finnish scientist caught an interesting insect in the woods in the Eastern part of the country, which he described as: “It’s a very dark species, head, thorax, abdomen are black or dark brown”. A fragile, dark fungus gnat, which prefers shady realms? What would be more obvious than to call it Sciophila holopaineni, named after Tuomas Holopainen, mastermind of Nightwish. S. holopaineni is not the only animal, whose name is derived from a rock star.
A few years ago, for instance, palaeontologists discovered an extraordinary fossil. Eternalised in stone, was a fireworm, which, still after millions of years, flexed its muscles to the delight of the scientists. The muscles were remarkably well-preserved and made the researchers immediately think of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because none of the palaeontologists was really a big fan of the Republican party, they discarded the idea quickly. But there had to be other muscle-men in show business… Of course. For example, former Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins. Hence, they named the worm Rollinschaeta myoplena, plump-muscled Rollins worm. Not very beefy is another critter, which bears the name of the hardcore star – Amphinema rollinsi is a jellyfish.
Also Ozzy Osborne, legendary frontman of Black Sabbath, was inspiration for a newly discovered animal. It’s, however, not a bat, as some of you might think, but a frog. What’s so special about this brown-orange reptile with unusually long fingers and toes? Dendropsophus ozzyi produces high-pitched calls, which reminded the scientists of bats (or Black Sabbath songs?).
Not one frog but an entire frog genus is named after Freddie Mercury, the Mercurana. Striking resemblance to the Queen singer was, however, not the reason for this naming. The scientists just wanted to pay tribute. Apart from that, the young Freddie, back then still Farrokh Bulsara, is believed to have lived close to the place of finding, near Kerala, India. In contrast, Mercury’s iridescent personality might be behind the name of the damselfly Heteragrion freddiemercuryi – or perhaps the reason why all the band members of Queen received this kind of credit.
There’s a very plausible explanation for the name of the deep sea snail Alviniconcha strummeri, named after The Clash’s Joe Strummer. “The name highlights the ‘hardcore’ nature of Alviniconcha snails, that inhabit the hottest, most acidic and most sulphidic microhabitats at Indo-Pacific hydrothermal vents. The name also recognizes the surface of Alviniconcha shells: the spiky periostracum resembles the fashion of punk rock bands.”
Punk’s not dead, they say. Kind of funny that a number of trilobites, extinct arthropods, bear the name of famous punk musicians. Five Arcticalymene species are named after the Sex Pistols: A. cooki (Paul Cook), A. jonesi (Steve Jones), A. matlocki (Glen Matlock), A. rotteni (Johnny Rotten) and A. viciousi (Sid Vicious). Another trilobite genus, Mackenziurus, is named after the Ramones: M. joeyi (Joey Ramone), M. johnnyi (Johnny Ramone), M. deedeei (Dee Dee Ramone) and M. ceejayi (C. J. Ramone).
So, coming back to the initial question. Which animal should be named after you? In our case, perhaps a deer, our mascot. Cervus stalkeri? Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?