We find thousands of new species every year, and they all need names. Scientists try to be inventive, but it’s still most common to simply choose a name based on the animal’s appearance or origin.
Sometimes however, species get the name of a famous person.
Renowned naturalist David Attenborough has 12 species named after him. Popstar Beyonce has a bootylicious fly namesake, and even Adolf Hitler got a beetle named after him back in 1933 when he had just become chancellor of Germany.
Now U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump has joined the ranks of famous people thus honoured by zoologists. Neopalpa donaldtrumpi is a tiny moth with a wingspan of only 7-12 millimetres. It is found in southern California and in Baja California in Mexico, and belongs to a relatively insignificant insect family commonly known as twirler moths.
Entomologist Vazrick Nazari found the new moth specimens in a collection borrowed from UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology. N. donaldtrumpi had been lumped in with the only other member of its genus N. neonata, but Nazari noticed striking differences, especially the yellowish-white scales on the moth’s head.
An up-close shot of the moth's scaly 'do.
PHOTO BY DR VAZRICK NAZARI
It was the moth’s hairdo that inspired Nazari to name it after Trump, but he’s also been frank about the fact that naming species after a famous person is a great way to garner attention.
“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the US that still contain many undescribed species,” he writes in the paper published this week in ZooKeys.
Tosanoides obama or coral reef basslet, a fish discovered last year and named in honour of President Barack Obama.
PHOTO BY RICHARD L. PYLE
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama has been immortalised in several species’ names. In fact, according to Science magazine, he has received this honour more than any other U.S. President—a whopping nine species carry Obama’s name, including a trapdoor spider, a bird, a fish and even a lichen.
Header image: Holotype and paratypes of the new species Neopalpa donaldtrumpi. IMAGE BY DR VAZRICK NAZARI