There’s a horsefly named Beyonce

This bug looks like you!

Governed by international commissions and codes of nomenclature spanning plants, animals and bacteria, biologists have still managed to honour everyone from popes to punks when they describe a previously unknown species. (There’s no actual law against naming something after yourself, it’s just very bad form).

The horsefly Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae

Sometimes the link between organism and celebrity namesake is clear, like the rare horsefly with a shimmering golden backside that inspired CSIRO scientist Bryan Lessard to name it Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae.

The insect was discovered in North Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands in 1981 and lay unnamed until it was classified by Lessard 30 years later.

If he’d gotten to work on the fly a few years earlier it might have been known as kyliehotpantsiae.

  Photo: Destiny’s other child? The apparently bootylicious Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae. (CSIRO)

Physical similarities between creature and namesake are equally obvious in the beetle with the massive ‘biceps’ (middle femora), Agra schwarzeneggeri.

A pair of muscly looking legs earned this beetle the official title Agra schwartzeneggeri
Photo: This Costa Rican beetle would drive a Hummer and run for governor if it could. (Karie Darrow)

And the ‘snippy’ looking front claws on a long extinct arthropod were enough for Edward Scissorhands fan David Legg to name the species Kootenichela deppi.

A distant ancestor of lobsters and scorpions named after Johnny Depp Photo: Meet the original Mr Scissorhands – dead now for 500 million years (Paleontological Society)

Crikey! It’s a tree snail!

Likeness is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Dr John Stansic named the rare snail he discovered in North Queensland Crikey steveirwinii , saying its khaki colour reminded him of Steve Irwin.

The shell of the rare species of tree snail, Crikey steveirwini, discovered in North Queensland. Photo: The shell of the rare species of tree snail, Crikey steveirwini, discovered in north Queensland and named in honour of wildlife advocate and conservationist Steve Irwin (

Frank Stinger?

There was no such likeness between Frank Zappa and the jellyfish Italian scientist Ferdinando Boero named after him — it was all a ploy so Boero could meet his idol. And it paid off — a chuffed Zappa apparently met with him. It’s not clear whether he also caught up with the scientists, who likewise honoured him when they named a species of bacteria, an extinct gerbil, a mudskipper or a spider after Zappa.

The jellyfish Phialella zappai was named after Frank Zappa Photo: Frank Zappa is reported to have said “There is nothing I’d like better than having a jellyfish named after me”. Here it is – Phialella zappai. (Ferdinando Boero/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Everyone’s a beetle … except the fab four

Beetles have been named after a very eclectic group of famous people, from Che Guevara to Kate Winslet and Pope John Paul II to Hitler.

Interestingly, no beetles have been named after the actual Beatles, but the group has two species of worm named after it.

And like many rock, pop and punk stars, the members of the Beatles each have a trilobite named after them.

Looking like the inspiration for the Alien films, trilobites rocked the world for 270 million years before being wiped out in a mass extinction 250 million years ago.

Trilobites have been particularly popular subjects for naming after singers and musicians Photo: Extinct for 250 million years, trilobites are very rock and roll. (San Bernardino County Museum)

The Sex Pistols, the Stones, the Ramones, Miles Davis and Simon and Garfunkel all have these long extinct arthropods named after them. And, oddly, so does Marilyn Monroe.

When Australian palaeontologist John Shergold and British collaborator Richard Fortey found a trilobite fossil in the Northern Territory, they saw an hourglass shape in a part of its head.

And lo, Norasaphus monroeae was born. Lonely work, fossil hunting.


This post is excerpted from ABC Science and was written by Bernie Hobbs – click here for the rest of this post.

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