Mental Floss

Schwarzenegger Beetles (and other celebrity species)

Jason Plautz
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Recently, Stephen Colbert had a segment on his show where he celebrated a great honor: a spider being named after him. John Cleese said last week that having a lemur named after him was an honor he liked more than the possibility of knighthood. It's not unusual for species to be named after celebrities. In fact, a look through nature's nomenclature is practically equal parts Latin textbook and US Weekly. But how do celebrities get this honor?

Some scientists saw a resemblance between their creatures and the celebrities in question. For example, the Agra schwarzeneggeri is a beetle with a developed middle femora, which resembles a bulging bicep, not unlike bodybuilder/actor/governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's. Or there's the Greeffiella beatlei, a worm with particularly shaggy fur reminiscent of the Beatles' early haircuts.

larson bug.gif
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A few other interesting names and their origins:

  • Mastophora dizzydeani, named after baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean. This spider is one of the Bolas spiders, which catch their prey by "pitching" a ball of sticky silk blob attached to a thread.
  • Campsicnemius charliechaplini, named after Charlie Chaplin. These flies tend to die with their legs up in a bandy-legged position, similar to Chaplin's signature stance.
  • Fantasy author Terry Pratchett has the turtle Psephophorus terrypratchetti for his series of books where the world is housed on a turtle's back.
  • Orson Welles has a series of spiders named after him and his more famous roles: Orsonwelles othello, Orsonwelles macbeth, Orsonwelles falstaffius and Orsonwelles ambersonorum

Hugh Hefner has a rabbit (natch) named after him: the Sylvilagus palustris hefneri.

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