Six famous people with namesakes in the animal kingdom | Global Ideas | DW | 14.02.2017
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Global Ideas

Six famous people with namesakes in the animal kingdom

Sometimes animals are named after celebrities and politicians to draw attention to the creature's plight in the wild. But on certain occasions, it's just because they bear a striking resemblance to their namesake.

When evolutionary biologist Vazrick Nazari stumbled across what appeared to be a new species of moth, he was struck by the yellow-white scales adorning its head. The resemblance, he thought, to the new U.S. President Donald Trump's much maligned trademark bouffant hairdo was uncanny. And so he christened the moth Neopalpa donaldtrumpi. The species' habitat stretches from California, USA, across to Baja California in Mexico and is under serious threat.

USA Präsident Barack Obama Midway Atoll - Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Reuters/J. Ernst)

Barack Obama looks out to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument - which is home to his fish namesake

The moth isn't the only animal bearing a U.S. president's name. In December, scientists named a new coral-reef fish species after Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. Tosanoides obama was discovered in June 2016 in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The area had recently been expanded by Obama to become the world's largest marine protected area. 

Lady Gaga in Bergisch Gladbach (picture alliance/Geisler-Fotopress)

Lady Gaga's ostentatious style and individuality inspired scientists to name a genus of ferns after the singer

Lady Gaga, the U.S. singer known for her outlandish style, has a whole host of flora and fauna named in her honor. In 2012, two scientists called a species of parasitic wasp discovered in Chae Son National Park in Thailand Aleiodes gaga. A month later, researchers at Duke University in the U.S. discovered two new fern species, naming one Gaga germanotta – the singer's real name is Stefani Germanotta – and the other Gaga monstraparva, after Gaga's fans, dubbed "little monsters." Another 17 species of ferns were reclassified under the Gaga genus. Kathleen Pryer, who headed the research group, said they chose the name because they liked Lady Gaga's "empowering" music and because she wore a green outfit to the 2010 Grammy Awards that looked oddly like part of a fern. 

Global Ideas Entdeckung neuer Arten (David Shale)

The hairy-chested 'Hoff' crab's nickname is inspired by David Hasselhoff

A hairy-chested crab discovered in hot vents in Antarctic waters was dubbed "The Hoff" for actor David Hasselhof. The oft bare-chested star is best known for his stints on Baywatch, Knight Rider and for helping to bring down the Berlin Wall. Alas, The Hoff is just a nickname. The creature has since been given the formal scientific name, Kiwa tyleri, in honor of  British polar and deep ocean biologist Paul Tyler.  

Veteran broadcaster, naturalist and British national treasure David Attenborough is probably best known for the BBC series Planet Earth. But he too has had many animals named after him, mainly for his contribution to raising awareness about the natural world. The honors include a meat-eating plant and an Indonesian beetle. Most recently, a rare type of snail has joined the long list. The Australian Museum in Sydney called the animal – found in a small patch of rainforest on the island of Tasmania – Attenborougharion rubicundus. The red-green snail is 3.5 to 4.5 centimeters long and has been known for 40 years but had been wrongly classified. The museum hopes to bring attention to the endangered gastropod with its famous connections.

Grammy Awards 2017 in Los Angeles | Beyonce (Reuters/L. Nicholson)

Beyoncé all in gold at the 2017 Grammy awards

Beyoncé Knowles continues her ascent to mega stardom unabated and even counts entomologists among her fans. Research scientists Bryan Lessard formally identified a horsefly as Scaptia beyonceae in 2011 in the journal 'Austral Entomology.' Lessard was reportedly inspired by the insect's golden abdomen, which reminded him of the song Bootylicious recorded by the singer in her Destiny's Child days. 


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