Darth Vader, Leonardo DiCaprio, Yoda, Lady Gaga, Chaplin … Did you know that these characters and these talents among others have also given their names to plant and animal species? The proof by sixteen!
If you are interested in the question of the origins of the human species, you may know the anecdote about the discovery of the Lucy fossil, found in 1974 at the Hadar site in Ethiopia by an international research team. This fossil is dated 3.18 million years ago. Lucy is the first relatively complete fossil to be discovered from such an early period, and revolutionized our understanding of human origins.
Why this name? Because the researchers were listening to the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in the evening in the tent, by listing the bones they had discovered!
A baptismal name originally rather unusual therefore. Just like those animal and plant species featured in this slideshow. Did you know that a discovered animal species has been named in honor of Steven Spielberg? Another in homage to the adorable Yoda from Star Wars, or even Darth Vader? James Cameron is also distinguished, just like, recently, Leonardo DiCaprio, with a very important ecological commitment.
A tropical tree that has just been discovered in the forest of Ebo in Cameroon has been named after Leonardo DiCaprio, which was committed in 2020 to the preservation of this tropical forest, located north of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. 4m high, with a trunk adorned with large yellow-green flowers, this tree now bears the scientific name of Uvariopsis dicaprio. A tree that would, unfortunately, be in critical danger of extinction.
The Yoda Purpurata is a marine worm that was discovered in 2012, during the ECOMAR research program (Reunion University), which attempted to discover new animal species living in the seabed of the mid-Atlantic ridge. This little being was found 2500m below the surface by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, who named it because of its resemblance to Master Yoda!
Litarachna lopezae. Aquatic moth discovered at a depth of 70m in Puerto Rico by biologist Vladimir Pesic, from the University of Montenegro. He and his team regularly listened to singer – actress Jennifer Lopez to “put in a good mood”, and they were listening to the singer when they discovered the animal in the lab.
Aptostichus Angelinajolieae. Species of spider discovered by scientist Jason Bond in 2008, from Auburn University in Alabama. Named in tribute to actress Angelina Jolie, for her work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia
Marijuana is named after Carrie Fisher! The actress revealed this anecdote during a press conference held in December 2015 in London the morning after the premiere of the film Star Wars – The Force Awakens. To a reporter asking what was the weirdest place the comedians had seen their faces since the movie was launched, she replied, “A bottle of shampoo. Because you unscrew your head and the stuff comes out of your neck. And then it comes out. There’s this marijuana called Princess Leia! I swear it’s true! A friend told me about that. “
Agra Schwarzeneggeri. This beetle, discovered in 2002 in Coasta Rica, was named so because of the overdeveloped size of the animal’s front legs, which is reminiscent of the biceps of the actor and ex Mr. Universe.
Coloborhynchus spielbergi. This is the name given to this Lower Cretaceous pterosaur by a Dutch scientist named AJ Veldmeijer, and discovered in 2003 in Brazil. He named it in tribute to the filmmaker, who directed Jurassic Park.
In tribute to the commitment of James cameron on the biodiversity side and “his efforts to alert and sensitize the general public to the environmental cause”, a biologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Philippe JR Kok, decided to name the variety of frog he discovered in June 2012: Pristimantis jamescameroni (in one word)! Formally identified in October 2013, this very rare species was found in remote corners of Venezuela, in a mountainous area bordering on 2500 m.
Kootenichela Deppi. 505 million year old fossil anthropod, discovered by a scientist named David Legg, and named after the character played by Johnny Depp in Edward in the Silver Hands Due to the Animal’s Claws. He is a (very) distant cousin of the man and the scorpion.
Agra Liv is a species of beetle discovered in 2002 in the Amazon rainforest, named after the first name of actress Liv Tyler who played in Armaggeddon. “The existence and survival of this elegant species of beetle depends on the Amazon rainforest, which must not suffer a cataclysm [Armaggeddon en VO]”
Tianchisaurus Nedegoapeferima. Dinosaur having lived in the Jurassic era discovered by a scientist named Dhong Zhiming in 1993. This fossil was named in homage to the film Jurassic Park. His name is indeed made up of part of the names of the actors in the film: Neill, Dern, Goldblum, Attenborough, Peck, Ferrero, Richards, and Mazzello.
In 2012, Kathleen Pyer, a biology researcher and teacher at Duke University in North Carolina, discovered a new plant species in the Hills of Death, south of San José, the capital of Costa Rica. She baptized it “Gaga Germanotta”, in homage to Lady Gaga’s real name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The researcher explained that she wanted to “do honor to an artist who brandished the banner of equality, respect for diversity, and personal freedom (…)”. And to add: “We do not know her, but we want to create a link between botany and the universe of a singer like Lady Gaga”.
Attenborosaurus. It is a genus of plesiosaur from the superfamily of pliosaurs although it has a relatively long neck. The animal measured about 5m. He lived in what is now Dorset, England, in the Lower Jurassic. It was named by the British paleontologist Bob Bakker in homage to Sir Richard Attenborough, “passionate about nature and in particular by dinosaurs since his childhood, and who was also a brilliant scientific journalist”. Much appreciated, the actor – director, who died in 2014, gave his name to no less than 10 animal species discovered, from shrimp to a prehistoric fossilized parrot, fish (a “Materpiscis attenboroughi” in particular, discovered in 2008 ) and a spider. High class.
Harry Potter Dementors
Ampulex Dementor. This insect species, a cross between a wasp and a cockroach, was discovered in 2014 in Thailand by a scientist named Michael Ohl from the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. Baptized thus by reference to its behavior similar to the Dementors of Harry Potter (name in VO; in French they are the “Dementors”), who literally suck the souls of their victims. The insect indeed releases a toxin via its trunk, which transforms its victims into “zombies”.
Agathidium Vaderi. Scarab subspecies of the Agathidium family. Named in homage to Darth Vader, because his back, particularly shiny and wide, reminded scientists of the helmet of the Star Wars character. This insect measures 3mm, and was discovered in North Carolina.
Calponia Harrisonfordi. Spider discovered by scientist Norman I. Platnick in 1993 in California, named in thanks to Harrison Ford for lending his voice for a documentary for the Natural History Museum in London.
Campsicnemus charliechaplini. Species of fly discovered in 1996, named in homage to Chaplin because when the insect dies, it adopts a posture with its legs which strangely recalls the character of Charlot in his films.