Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Leonardo DiCaprio get their own spider species | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 26.09.2017
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Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Leonardo DiCaprio get their own spider species

Fifteen new species of “smiley-faced” spiders have been discovered. But, their names will surprise. Among them, former US president Barack Obama, wife Michelle, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and US Senator Bernie Sanders.

Spintharus Barackobamai, Spintharus Davidbowiei and Spintharus Davidattenboroughi

Left to right: Spintharus Barackobamai, Spintharus Davidbowiei and Spintharus Davidattenboroughi

Researchers at Vermont University in the US have discovered 15 new species of Spintharus spider.

Nicknamed the "smiley-faced” spider, the eight-legged creatures were previously thought to belong to one genus. But, genetic testing showed they were in fact 15 different species.

As their nickname suggests, the spiders have a similar smiley faced pattern on their abdomens, but research shows they have not interbred for millions of years.

The newly named spiders live in northern North America right through to Brazil in South America. To now, scientists believed the "smiley face” spiders all belonged to the one genus.

Discovering each spider is endemic to each country, including Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, Ingi Agnarsson, spider expert and professor of biology at the university, along with his team of researchers, decided the spiders needed individual names.

"In naming these spiders, the students and I wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change - leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world,” Agnarsson said.

So…meet the world's newest freshly minted spiders.

Former US President Barack Obama (Spintharus barackobamai) had a spider named after him.

Obama's wife, Michelle (Spintharus michelleobamaae) also had an eight-leggeded critter named after her.

Late singer, David Bowie (Spintharus davidbowiei), was given a nod by researchers.


Naturalist David Attenborough (Spintharus davidattenboroughi), who late last year had a ship named after him, was also honored.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (Spintharus leonardodicaprioi) shares his name with one of spiders

Along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (Spintharus berniesandersi).

Each student who helped describe the spiders also got to name a few of them—and some were named for beloved family members, "but we all named the Bernie Sanders spider,” Lily Sargeant, one of the students who part-took in the project, and who graduated from UVM last year, said.

jlw/ftm (with dpa)