10 Fossils Named for Rock Stars
By Riley Black
Fossils rock. So much so that paleontologists have named a whole menagerie of prehistoric critters after their favorite musicians. Here’s a rundown of some of the fantastic prehistoric species named in honor of rock stars.
1. Masiakasaurus knopfleri
Picking away at ancient rock all day can be a little tedious, so paleontologists often bring music out into the field to help the days go faster. Some songs seem to be luckier than others. Paleontologists working in the 70 million year old rock of Madagascar kept finding lots of bones of a dog-sized predatory dinosaur whenever they put Dire Straits on the radio—so when it was time to name the snaggletoothed dinosaur (above), they dubbed it Masiakasaurus knopfleri in honor of the band’s singer, Mark Knopfler.
2. Qiliania graffini
This feathered dinosaur is named after Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin. Belonging to an extinct group of avians with teeth and claws called enantiornithes, the 120 million year old Qiliania graffini is yet another species that confirms the fact that birds are dinosaurs.
3. Barbaturex morrisoni
At about six feet long, the 50 million year old iguana Barbaturex was the biggest plant-eating lizard of all time. Such superlative size requires a fitting name. Since The Doors’ Jim Morrison once proclaimed himself The Lizard King, paleontologists thought adding his name as a species epithet was the perfect way to highlight the lizard’s impressive girth.
4. Kingnites diamondi
Vertebrates aren’t the only hard-rocking fossils. Danish rocker King Diamond inspired the name of Kingnites diamondi, a 420 million year old worm that grew to 20 inches and had a nasty set of piercing mouthparts.
5. The Punk Trilobites
Trilobites were relatively mild-manned invertebrates, crawling over the prehistoric seabottom and rolling up into a ball when threatened. But there is one group that has a bit more edge. All the species in trilobite genus Arcticalymene are named after the Sex Pistols—A. jonesi, A. matlocki, A. cooki, A. vicious, and A. rotteni. The Ramones got their turn, too, while trilobites named Mackenziurus joeyi, M. johnnyi, M. deedeei, and M. ceejayi.
6. Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni
This 100 million year old hermit crab wasn’t known for doing the moonwalk or "Thriller" dance. Instead, paleontologists discovered the Cretaceous crustacean on the same day as they learned of Michael Jackson’s death and named it Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni in honor of the deceased pop idol.
7. Amaurotoma zappa
Fossil snails are a bit of an acquired taste. They’re often small and don’t have the celebrity status of megamammals or dinosaurs. Perfect, then, that the 300 million year old snail from Nevada was dubbed Amaurotoma zappa in honor of musical underdog Frank Zappa.
8. Gagadon minimonstrum
Some paleontologists go all out with their clever names. On the basis of a fossil jaw, researchers Richard Stucky and Herbert Covert named a new, 50 million year old hoofed mammal Gagadon minimonstrum. The official paper says that the species name refers to the small and complex teeth of the mammal, but we all know that the name translates to Lady Gaga’s “Little Monster.”
9. AC/DC Millipedes
Paleontologist Gregory Edgecombe has a habit of naming fossils for his favorite musical acts. Not only did he dub the Sex Pistols and Ramones trilobites, but in a 1998 paper [PDF], he named a pair of 410 million year old millipedes after the famous AC/DC brothers Malcolm and Angus Young—Maldybulakia malcolmi and M. angusi, respectively. Imagine the on-stage histrionics if Angus had as many legs as his prehistoric namesake.
This 19 million year old mammal probably didn’t have moves like Jagger, but it did have lips like him. A set of tiny holes around the jaw of Jaggermeryx, a distant cousin of today’s hippos, indicate that it probably had unusually fleshy and sensitive lips. The fossil record is as yet unclear on whether this swamp-dwelling beast could get any satisfaction.