Animal Magnetism: 9 Critters that owe their names to celebrities
Having a street or a college dorm named after you has never seemed that impressive to me. You simply drop an overflowing briefcase on the right desk, and it's basically a done deal. And while having a theme park or a capital named after you (Dollywood? Monrovia?) is certainly more remarkable, nothing seems as impressive to me as winning the hearts of those surly biologists, who have the power to name a creature after you forever. The following are just a few of the lucky animals to have been blessed with celebrity names.
1. Gary Larson
The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson has a biting louse (Strigiphilus garylarsoni) named for him. According to Wikipedia, Larson wrote, "I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along."
2. Bill Gates
Believe it or not, Microsoft's main man has a Costa Rican flower fly named for him (Eristalis gatesi). When I was thumbing through my internet, I saw several places claim that the honor was thanks to his "contributions to dipterology." I'm guessing that means financial contributions, and not field work, or the effects of Microsoft Word on the discipline. But you can never be sure with these things.
3. Paul Allen
Not to be outdone, his sidekick Paul Allen also has a fly named for him (Eristalis alleni). Somehow Allen ended up with the prettier of the two species, perhaps in compensation for his slightly smaller bank account. [see pic at top]
4. Harrison Ford
If you're in the mood to catalog Harrison Ford's many accomplishments, you should know that he has not one, but two species named for him. That's right, Han Solo himself lays claim to both a spider (calponia harrisonfordi) and an ant (pheidole harrisonfordi), thanks to his involvement in conservation work and narration of documentaries. As of yet, there's been no motion to name any snakes after him, though.
5. Boris Becker
Being an Ivan Lendl fan, I was a little disturbed by Boris Becker's Bufonaria borisbeckeri, a bursid sea snail. Still, that was so many Wimbledons ago, and I can't hold a grudge forever. After all he's done for the game, I think the least he deserves is a sea snail.
6. James Brown
Talk about putting the might back in mites! Nothing shakes like the Funkotriplogynium iagobadius. According to my web research, the naming is definitely superbad: Iago = James, badius = brown. Who said taxonomists don't got soul?
7. Jerry Garcia
I wasn't that surprised to learn that Elvis has a wasp named after him, or that the Beatles have a shaggy nematode named after them thanks to their moptops, but whodathunk Jerry Garcia would have an insect in his honor? In any case, it's pretty funny that some pot-smokin' taxonomist decided to name the wood 'roach' cryptocercus garciai after the high-flyin' Grateful Dead guitarist.
8. The Current Administration
Apparently, these names aren't always flattering. I was kind of shocked to learn that some scientists wear their politics on their labcoat sleeves... and even worse, that they use their powers to poke fun! Such was the case with Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi, which are now all scientific names for types of slime mold beetles.
9. Hugh Hefner
Of course, sometimes the admiration, the species and cleverness tie up really nicely, as in Hef's case. The Playboy magazine founder has an endangered rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) named for him. I once read an interview where Hugh Hefner revealed that his best pick-up line was "Hi, I'm Hugh Hefner." Perhaps the line will help the endangered bunnies mate like, well, rabbits.