Biologist Names Moth After Trump to Send Message About Conservation

Dr. Vazrick Nazari // CC BY 4.0
Dr. Vazrick Nazari // CC BY 4.0 / Dr. Vazrick Nazari // CC BY 4.0

In a move taken directly from the reality TV star’s playbook, one biologist is using the president-elect’s name to draw attention to his cause. Describing the blond, poorly endowed moth species Neopalpa donaldtrumpi in the journal ZooKeys, he said he hoped the move would publicize the need to “continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S.”

Evolutionary biologist Vazrick Nazari was looking through the specimen collection at Bohart Museum of Entomology in California when he noticed a few very small moths that looked unusual. Their wing markings looked unlike those of any other related species—and their genitals were smaller and unconventional.

Abnormal genitals are actually taxonomic gold. Bug experts rely on infinitesimal differences in insects’ nether regions to tell species apart. So when Nazari found himself looking at unusual ‘nads, he had a feeling he might be on to something.

To confirm his suspicions, Nazari used a technique called DNA barcoding to see if he could match the new specimens to any existing species. As he suspected, he couldn’t. The tiny moths represented an entirely new species—and an opportunity to make a statement.

Dr. Vazrick Nazari // CC BY 4.0

The new species is part of the twirler moth family, so named for their tendency to deal with stress by spinning in circles. The paper announcing the scaly, yellow-capped new species was published just as Republican members of the House and Senate announced plans to roll back the Endangered Species Act.

“The discovery of this distinct micro-moth in the densely populated and otherwise zoologically well-studied southern California underscores the importance of conservation of the fragile habitats that still contain undescribed and threatened species,” Nazari wrote. (The new species is native to the West Coast and can be found flitting across the border between Southern California and Mexico.)

“By naming this species after the 45th President of the United States, I hope to bring some public attention to, and interest in, the importance of alpha-taxonomy in better understanding the neglected micro-fauna component of the North American biodiversity.”