Researchers in the US have named a new parasite after US President Barack Obama -— and there’s no worming out of it. In the Journal of Parasitology, a new species of parasite has entered the scientific taxonomy: ‘Baracktrema obamai’.
Thomas R Platt, the journal article’s co-author and Obama’s fifth cousin, twice-removed, chose the name and believes that the president should consider it an honour, not an insult.
Platt, who discovered and named the flatworm to crown his career before retiring, has 32 new species to his credit. In the past, he’s named them after his father-in-law, his doctorate adviser and other people he have a great deal of respect for.
“This is clearly something in my small way done to honor our president,” Platt said.
Platt said people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a species named after them.
“Baractrema obamai are phenomenally incredibly resilient organisms. I hold them in awe and with phenomenal respect,” Platt said.
The worm is related, distantly, to a parasite that can cause a devastating disease in humans, but it causes no harm to turtles, he says.
Parasites are cool, crucial to life and all around us, according to Rutgers biologist Michael Sukhedo, editor of the journal.
“About seven out of 10 animals on Earth are parasites. Naming a new species — especially in the final paper of a career — “is a big decision,” he said. Obama already has a spider, a fish and even an extinct dinosaur named after him.
Although names are usually bestowed as an honour, Sukhedo admits once or twice parasites have been named as a tool of revenge — something Platt says isn’t the case here.