naming species

Names record one’s existence in space. Some parents stew for months before naming their children, while others leave it to the minds’ random name generator. Authors go through a similar process as they create characters who annex their emotional energies. Scientists who stumble on unknown organisms can also join in on the fun and baptize unsuspecting creatures in their own ways.

There are many organisms that reference popular culture. Perhaps scientists wanted to attract attention to an otherwise obscure creature. Or, they wanted to commemorate a celebrity crush in a weak attempt to lasso their unattainable heart. Whatever the reason, there are certainly plenty of scientists who used famous people as their muse, as demonstrated by this Wikipedia page, List of organisms named after famous people [1].

Names do not need to be inspired by real people. There are organisms named after fictional pieces too. Human’s three-million-year-old grandmother, Australopithecus afarensis, is better known as Lucy, a nickname that pays homage to the Beatles’ song [2]. The song played multiple times during a party celebrating the excavation team’s discovery, so this may have been a nonsense name that only stuck because of boozy persuasion.

Another character celebrated in creature nomenclature is a wizard. Earlier this year, a new species of crab was named after Snape, the beloved antihero of the Potterverse [3]. Apparently, according to the identifiers, this was because, like Snape, the crab was an enigma [3].

Unlike naming babies or characters, the scientists naming the organisms are not always the ones who discovered them. The scientists who named the Snape crab did not discover the crab (to be more accurate, the person who found the crab shared a name with the Boy Who Lived, which was another reason for naming the crab after Snape). This belated naming happens because researchers cannot always immediately know whether an organism is a new species or not. It could be a variant of an existing species, and a new name would be for naught.

Sometimes, a creature has been unknown for so long, that by the time they are named, they are already extinct. In humanity’s stunning quest to identify everything, when an extinct organism is found, it shall be named. Such is the case with Jaggermeryx naida, a creature currently found in fossil remains. This aquatic pig-hippo is imagined to have lips that could really move, resembling the rock star it’s named after [4].

The neat thing about naming species is that they take on long, Latin forms that, not only evade pronunciation, but any trademarks that celebrities claim.

Check it out:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organisms_named_after_famous_people

[2] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060920-lucy.html

[3] http://time.com/4650671/harry-potter-crab-species-snape/

[4] http://www.npr.org/2014/09/12/347873313/scientists-name-swamp-creature-fossil-after-mick-jagger

Homage

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