Celebrity Creatures: 12 Over-The-Top Taxonomic Tributes
Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri)
Leave it to Hugh Hefner, the publisher, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, to fund research into the endangered Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit. Hefner’s interest and largesse (through Playboy Corporation) on behalf of James D. Lazell Jr. led to led to a 1984 publication in the Journal of Mammology in which Lazell described the rare Marsh Rabbit subspecies for the first time. Maybe you’ll read Playboy for the articles now, hmm?
Cobitid Loach (Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini)
(images via: Practical Fishkeeping)
There are Guitar Fish, and there are fish that look like guitars… at least, one undescribed species of Cobitid Loach from southeast Asia did to a certain researcher. “I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan,” explained Auburn University graduate student Justin Havird, “and I was listening to them while I was working on the fish. The structure that makes this species unique just reminded me of the (double-necked Gibson EDS-1275) guitar that Jimmy Page played.” Cue Eureka moment and welcome Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini to the world. Whole lotta loach indeed!
Tree Snail (Crikey steveirwini)
Few modern Australians have made more of an impact on pop culture than the late Steve Irwin. Armed with his oft-used exclamation “crikey”, Irwin’s star was still on the rise when he was cruelly struck down by a stingray’s sting in September of 2006. Now Irwin has been memorialized in a way he would undoubtedly approve of: by having a recently discovered native Australian species named after him. Kudos to John Stanisic, a scientist at the Queensland Museum, for dubbing a rare arboreal snail Crikey steveirwini in the late wildlife expert’s honor.
Mandela’s Nudibranch (Mandelia mirocornata)
If Hitler and Beyonce can get species named after them, why not someone like Nelson Mandela? What’s that? Oh, I stand corrected, Mandelia mirocornata was named in the beloved former freedom fighter’s honor by Valdés & Gosliner in 1999. Mandela’s Nudibranch, as it is known, is a species of… sea slug?? Well, it beats (and would likely eat) a blind cave beetle at least.
Trapdoor Spider (Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi)
Neil Young ruffled more than a few feathers down in Dixie when “Southern Man” and “Alabama” hit the airwaves, but time’s passed and it seems all’s forgiven: Jason E. Bond of East Carolina University honored the Canadian-born folk-rock icon in 2007 by naming a species of Trapdoor Spider native to Jefferson County, Alabama, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi in the singer’s honor. “There are rather strict rules about how you name new species,” explained Bond. “As long as these rules are followed you can give a new species just about any name you please. With regards to Neil Young, I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice.”
Bee Fly (Villa manillae)
Fame can be fleeting but taxonomy is forever – a maxim Neal L. Evenhuis (above, left) may need to review next time he’s got a new species to name, which may be soon as he’s named well over a hundred. Few can match Villa manillae, however. This curious name of this member of the the bee-fly family (Bombyliidae) was said to be “inspired” by Milli Vanilli. This now-infamous late-1980s-to-early 1990s pop group composed of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus won a Grammy Award in 1990, which was subsequently revoked when it was revealed the voices attributed to the two actually belonged to various studio vocalists. Did Neal L. Evenhuis care? Evidently not – he came up with Villa manillae in 1993, almost 3 years after the scandal broke. Now that really stings… and girl you know that’s true!
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