Famous Name

(August 30th, 2015) In Indonesia and Japan, researchers discover new species requiring scientific names and are inspired by music and research.

It doesn’t have “blue eyes” and it, most likely, can’t do the “crocodile rock”. No, the reason why a newly discovered crustacean has been named after the British entertainer with the big collection of glasses is much simpler. “I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career," says James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography in Florida, USA.

With the help and support of colleagues from the Netherlands he recently went scuba diving in Indonesian coral reef waters. And there he came across an unusual creature, “inhabiting the branchial chambers of solitary tunicates”, like Herdmania sp., also known as sea squirts. The critters he isolated from the tunicates were about 8 mm in size, had short antennae and the males exhibited unusually large first gnathopods (“claws” to hold the female during copulation). “When this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind," Thomas adds. From now on, the commensal amphipod goes by the name: Leucothoe eltoni

But not only rock stars are being honoured with having new species named after them. Recently, a scientist came to the same fame and honour. Japanese researchers isolated a new bacterial species from a commercial salt sample made from seawater in Okinawa and immediately thought of an eminent microbiologist, Bill Grant, Emeritus Professor at the University of Leicester. During his career, Grant has extensively studied Halobacteria also preferring salty habitats.

The newly discovered bug (Halarchaeum grantii) is, however, an archaeum. “These are considered to be relatives of the very first life forms that evolved on earth and they have genes that are the ancestors of some genes in present day higher forms of life,” Grant says and adds: “I have worked on the group for almost 40 years and amongst many other things have authored or co-authored the last two definitive taxonomic treatments of the group. It is nice to become part of posterity - grantii will be in the literature for ever.”

Kathleen Gransalke

Last Changes: 10.08.2015