Students of the University of Vermont have found and named 15 species of Caribbean “smiley face” spiders after celebrities such as the Obamas, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bernie Sanders, and listed these recently in Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. For Barack Obama, it’s not the first — in 2012, a trapdoor spider was named after him, one among 33 new species listed in ZooKeys by Jason E Bond, a biologist at Auburn University Museum of Natural History. The rest included one named after Angelina Jolie, and one after Bono.
“We chose to honour prominent individuals that have stood up for the things we believe in — most notably issues of human rights and environment,” said Igni Agnarsson, a University of Vermont biologist who led the newer study, along with four students. “We honoured politicians and star performers that recognise the threat of global climate change and are willing to stand up and do something about it, and that also fight for basic human rights and equality,” Agnarsson told The Indian Express.
Over the years, nearly a dozen organisms have been named for Obama, including a bird, two fish, a bee, a beetle and an extinct lizard. Current US President Donald Trump has a moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, named after him. The reason, unaffiliated Canadian scientist Vazrick Nazari writes in his study, published in ZooKeys earlier this year, is “the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr Trump’s hairstyle”.
Source: The images of “smiley face” spiders (Spintharus), listed in Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, are composite photos created by Igni Agnarsson’s students, and provided to The Indian Express by the University of Vermont; the captions were edited from an Oxford University Press release. The photos of the two trapdoor spiders (Aptostichus) are from an open-access study in ZooKeys, authored by Jason E Bond of Auburn University Museum of Natural History.