More Pop Culture Scientific Names

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

In response to Katie’s post on funny fossil names, here are some more memorable scientific names.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Elvis, and Ichabod Crane are only the tip (fictional or not) of the naming-new-species-after-people iceberg. The host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert, has a species of trap door spider named after him in the form of Aptostichus stephencolberti.  As in the host’s last name, the “T” is silent.  The spider was named by East Carolina University biologist, Jason Bond; who has also bestowed similar honors on musician Neil Young, South African leader Nelson Mandela, and actress Angelina Jolie. Colbert also has a diving beetle, Agaporomorphus colberti, and a stonefly, Diamphipnoa colberti, named in his honor.

Having three species named after you is pretty impressive, but the king of scientific naming may be Far Side cartoonist, Gary Larson.  Larson has not one, but three different species named after him including Strigiphilus garylarsoni, a genus of biting louse found only on owls, Serratoterga larsoni, a variety of butterfly found in the rainforests of Ecuador, and a beetle species known as Garylarsonus.  Additionally, there is Larson’s Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a person has either a lack of awareness or acceptance of their impending doom.  Gary Larson also coined the term “Thagomizer” in one of his cartoons in reference to the spiky bit found at the end of dinosaur tails, such as that of a Stegosaurus, due to its negative effects on caveman, Thag Simmons.  The term is now accepted by paleontologists as an official, albeit whimsical, part of dinosaur anatomy.

The Thagomizer

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