7 Animals Named After Theodore Roosevelt
As a devoted conservationist, intrepid explorer, and self-proclaimed bull moose, Theodore Roosevelt is indisputably worthy of being the namesake of an animal or two. He tallies a staggering seven, one of which was just described and named after him in 2012. Find out all the details on the eclectic collection of creatures, from big cats to tiny fish, below.
1. Cervus canadensis roosevelti
In 1909, Theodore Roosevelt established the Mount Olympus National Monument in Washington state to protect the largest subspecies of North American elk. When then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the area in 1937, he paid tribute to the work of his fifth cousin by naming the elk subspecies after him—and then creating the Olympic National Park in 1938.
2. Crocidura roosevelti
Shortly after founding the aforementioned monument in 1909, TR and his son Kermit embarked on a yearlong safari in British East Africa (now Kenya and Uganda), during which they killed 512 animals and donated many of the specimens to the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian zoologist Edmund Heller, who accompanied the Roosevelts on the trip, then named a few of the new-to-science species after Roosevelt. One of these was Roosevelt’s shrew, a small, mouse-like insectivore with a long snout and pointed teeth.
3. Gazella granti roosevelti
Another animal Heller named after Roosevelt was a subspecies of Grant’s gazelle, named for 19th-century Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant. According to Heller and Roosevelt’s book Life-Histories of African Game Animals, it’s distinguishable from others in its species by its darker cinnamon dorsal color and its smaller, narrower horns.
4. Panthera leo roosevelti
In 1914, Heller wrote that the lion that Ethiopian emperor Menelik II had given to Roosevelt in 1904 was in fact a new subspecies, the Abyssinian lion, recognizable in part by its large skull, small cheek teeth, and black-tipped mane. He named it Felis leo roosevelti; later, the subspecies was reclassified into the genus Panthera. In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group reclassified all lion subspecies into just two groups [PDF]: Panthera leo leo, or the northern subspecies, and Panthera leo melanochaita, the southern subspecies. Roosevelt’s lion falls into the latter group.
5. Pheidole roosevelti
In 1921, entomologist William M. Mann (who would later become the director of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.) published descriptions of all the new ant species he had discovered during a trip to the Fiji Islands between 1915 and 1916. Though he mentions that the Pheidole roosevelti is “named after the late Col. Theodore Roosevelt,” he doesn’t explain why. It could be that he simply respected Roosevelt’s work in taxonomy, or it’s possible that their paths crossed. Mann did know Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice—he was photographed with her in 1953.
6. Stenomorpha roosevelti
In March 2011, on the 100th anniversary of a speech Roosevelt made at Arizona State University—then called Tempe Normal School—researchers named a newly described species of darkling beetle after him: Stenomorpha roosevelti.
“Naming a new species for President Roosevelt honors his achievements as a pioneering conservationist, naturalist, and explorer, and helps us bring attention to biodiversity and the field of taxonomy,” Quentin Wheeler, founding director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU, said in a press release. “The ruggedness of this darkling beetle reflects many of the hardy and resilient characteristics of President Roosevelt.”
7. Etheostoma teddyroosevelt
In 2012, after realizing that several populations of the common speckled darter (Etheostoma stigmaeum) had such significant differences that they were actually five separate species of darters, scientists decided to name them after Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and, of course, Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt’s highland darter, native to Arkansas’s Ozark highlands, is one of the smaller species, identifiable by its gray lower lip. It also has noticeable teeth. Roosevelt was chosen as its namesake not only because of his preservation efforts, but also for setting a precedent that future presidents could follow.
Mental Floss has a new podcast with iHeartRadio called History Vs., about how your favorite historical figures faced off against their greatest foes. Our first season is all about President Theodore Roosevelt. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts here, and for more TR content, visit the History Vs. site.