Taylor Swift, Beyoncé… When musicians give their names to insects

(ETX Daily Up) – Lots of pet owners name their furball after hit singers. But they are not the only ones: scientists do it too. They often give the name of a famous musician to invertebrates, especially if they are on the verge of extinction. Explanations.

Taylor Swift is on a roll. If the singer has recently been studied at the Clive Davis Institute, she has just taken a new step in her career… by giving her name to an insect. The invertebrate in question is a twist-clawed centipede, which is the subject of a new study published in the journal ZooKeys.

This little-known insect, native to Appalachia, plays an essential role in the preservation of biodiversity as a decomposer. It feeds on decaying leaves and other plant matter, which it gradually recycles into mineral elements essential to plants.

While specimens of twisted-claw centipedes are housed in many natural history museums around the world, scientists have long suspected that some species have not yet been recorded. American scientist Derek Hennen and his team then set out to find them in 17 American states.

Their work helped identify and name the centipede Nannaria swiftae. Derek Hennen chose this name to pay tribute to the role that Taylor Swift had in his life. “His music got me through the ups and downs of my graduate studies, so naming a new species of centipede after him is my way of saying thank you,” he said in a statement.

40,000 species threatened with extinction

If the initiative may surprise, it is far from unusual. Many researchers have named insects and plants in homage to great names in music. Beyoncé thus gave her name to a subspecies of horsefly with a golden abdomen and honey-colored wings, discovered in 2011 by Bryan Lessard. The Australian entomologist hoped that the name Scaptia beyonceae would make this insect “an ambassador of biodiversity bootylicious” (a portmanteau combining the words buttocks (booty) and delicious (delicious) in English). For her part, Lady Gaga lent her surname to a family of ferns, identified in 2012 by American biologist Kathleen Pryer and her team.

Naming elements of fauna and flora in homage to famous musicians makes it possible to draw the attention of the general public to the threats which weigh against the environment. The scientific community estimates that our planet has around 8.7 million living species, of which 6.5 million evolve on land and 2.2 million in the aquatic environment. Many of them, however, could disappear even before they have been discovered and their existence, their unique function in the ecosystem, have been analyzed. The latest update of the “Red List” established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports more than 40,000 species currently threatened with extinction.

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