Anophthalmus hitleri and naming organisms after famous people

3년 전

Scientists have to come up with thousands of new species names every year. It's no wonder that some of the ideas are a little unusual. Quite popular is giving names after famous people. It turns out there might be some interesting reasons behind it.

When you discover a new species you have a freedom to name whatever you want. There are only a couple rules to follow, for example naming your discovery after yourself is rather frowned upon. There are many animals and plants named after a loved one or a fellow scientist. A different trend are celebrity inspired names.

Some people do it to simply honor their favourite musician or actor. However, in many cases there are different reasons behind doing that - it attracts the attention of the media. This way scientists can make the public aware of the problems a species is facing.

Neoplapa donaldtrumpi; Wikimedia

Donald Trump's moth

A good example can be a moth known as Neoplapa donaldtrumpi. The golden coloration of its head reminded the scientists of Trump's hair. The reason behind choosing to name the creature after the Donald Trump was to bring attention to the fragile habitats in North America. Dr Vazrick Nazari, the scientist who discovered the moth, said he hopes the president will make the conservation of those habitats his priority. Naming species after the American presidents became kind of a tradition. Barack Obama already has nine creatures bearing his name.

Bill Gates' fly

Eristalis gatesi is species of fly that can be found only in one place in the world - the cloud forests high in the Costarician mountains. It was named after the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates and it was a form of thanking him for his financial contribution to dipterology, the scientific study of flies. Gates' colleague Paul Allen shouldn't feel worse at all, he was also given one fly species - Eristalis alleni.

Lady Gaga's ferns

Lady Gaga received a gift of as much as 19 species of ferns with her name - the whole genus Gaga was a tribute to her. She is one of the few people to have that honor. Choosing her was not an accident. The ferns have a DNA sequence thast spells GAGA and some of them might look a bit like her unusual stage costumes. The scientists say they appreciate Gaga's strong support of equality and individual expression.

Darth Vader's beetle

You don't even need to be a real person to have your own beetle. Fictional characters also happen to have animals named after them. One of the examples is Agathidium vaderi. This insect shares its name with the famous Darth Vader. The reason was his exoskeleton that reminded someone of Vader's helmet. There is also a type of sponge named after SpongeBob SquarePants.

Nikita Khrushchev's worm

Having something named after you isn't always something to be proud of. Rousseau H. Flower hated communists so much that he named a worm he discovered after Nikita Khrushchev as a form of insult. Rumour has it that because of the traffic jams that were caused by Khrushchev's visit in Washington, Flower was late for an important meeting. It's also worth noting that the worm's name Khruschevia might be misspelled intentionally to make it even more insulting.

It's not clear what should be thought about Agathidium bushi. Scientists claim that it was supposed to be a compliement towards George Bush. However, some people say that naming a slime-mold beetle after you is actually more of an insult especially that in the same genus there is Agathidium vaderi, a beetle mentioned here before that was named after the Star Wars villain.

Anophthalmus hitleri; Wikimedia

Adolf Hitler's beetle

The most interesting case on this list might be a beetle called Anophthalmus hitleri which was named after... Adolf Hitler. The man behind that idea was an amateur enthomologist Oscar Scheibel. It has to be said that the beetle received its name before the war, soon after Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. The Fuhrer even sent a letter to show his gratitude but it's not sure if Scheibel's real intention was to honor him because the first part of the latin name can be translated as "blind". The controversial naming still remains unchanged because it is a tradition not to alter a name that was once proposed if it didn't break any rules at that time.
The beetle can be found in only about fifteen caves in Slovenia. After the war it became a valuable collectors item among Nazi memorabilia fans. They don't mind the fact that the animal is protected or that the price can be as high as $2000. Today there is a whole black market that specifies in selling Anophthalmusem hitleri and the species is very close to being completly exterminated.

Last but not least, some examples from my country. There are at least three species honoring Polish people: Aegomorphus wojtylai, a Polish beetle named after pope John Paul II, Fernandocrambus chopinellus a Chilean moth named after Frederic Chopin and Dendrophorbium chopinii, a Peruvian plant also named after Chopin. The first two were discovered by Polish scientists and the third by a Portugal one who is just a huge fan of Chopin's music.

The pictures are used under Creative Commons or Public Domain licence

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  ·  3년 전

Good read, interesting topic.

What $2000 beetle in Slovenia? Never heard of it.


Not all of them are that expensive, only some that are perfectly preserved

  ·  3년 전

Indeed. And it is illegal to buy/sell any cave resource in the USA under the Cave Resources Protection Act and Slovenia probably has their counterpart. Check with the Slovenian Karst Institute in Postojna: