Thursday, 20 December 2012

Flowers in the press

Quirky orchid fact for you. A certain Bolivian orchid is named after Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union. It’s called the Maxillaria gorbatschowii.

All new species need names, and recently, desperate scientists are going for celebrities – no doubt to guarantee a headline.

Apparently, there’s a jellyfish named after musician Frank Zappa and an ape named after comedian John Cleese. One horsefly is named after singer Beyonce – just hazard a guess why.

According to a recent article, the namesakes don't have to be asked for permission, but spider researcher Peter Jaeger (who has personally named spiders after David Bowie and a half dozen other prominent people) says it’s not just a gimmick. ‘It's about sending a message that the species is endangered,’ said Jaeger. ‘I find it good when science comes down from its ivory tower.’

Private people can also be immortalised, but there's a price. In exchange for about 2,600 euros ($3,400), the association Biopat offers the right to name an organism. Orchids are the most popular, along with butterflies, frogs and bugs. The money goes towards environmental projects in the organism's land of origin or for the good of science. To date, over 120 species have been sponsored.

Now, I for one think they deserve more publicity.

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