Have you wondered how scientists come up with names for new species when they are discovered? I sure have. I had assumed it had to do with the morphology, physiology or the behaviour of the organisms, but I apparently I was wrong. I was surprised to learn that numerous species were named based on Hollywood celebrities and politicians. Here are two of my favourites:
1. Same sex marriage
This snail was originally thought to be a part of the Aegista subchinensis species. But in 2003 it was noticed that there may be a difference among the morphology of the snails in this species from two different locations on the mountain ranges of Taiwan. A team of scientists went on to do a study to determine whether this was true, and recently in 2014, they published a paper showing that there is in fact a difference in the morphology and genetic make-up of the two. Some of the differences in morphology between the two were the size and curvature of the shells.
Here’s a link to the published article for more details: http://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=4147
During this time Taiwan, along with many other countries in the world, was dealing with the struggle of recognizing same-sex marriage equality and since the newly found species is a hermaphrodite (each snail has both male and female reproductive organs), the scientists decided to give it a name which supported equal marriage rights. The name given was…ready for it….Aegista diversifamilia. The name was derived from the Latin words, “diversus” meaning different and “familia” meaning family. The researchers felt it “represents the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom.”
However, seems like the name of this snail hasn’t been able to help Taiwan make same-sex marriage legal yet. There are unfortunately only 17 countries in the world that have been able to do this.
2. Tinker Bell
Yes, scientists love a good Disney storyline too. A paper published in 2013 described a newly discovered fairyfly from Costa Rica as one of the smallest insects which can fly. It is measured at just 250 micrometers, meaning we can’t even see it without a microscope!
Image from Google
Again….get ready for the name…Tinkerbella nana. And for those of you who are die-hard fans of Peter Pan, you would notice that “nana” is the name of the dog in the movie. I’m assuming this was done on purpose as “nana” comes from the Greek word “nanos” meaning dwarf.
If you don’t believe me, here’s the link to the article: http://jhr.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=1635