New Species of SmileyFaced Spiders Named After Obamas David Bowie

first_imgStay on target Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferNASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This Weekend What do David Attenborough, Barack and Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and David Bowie have in common?They are the namesakes of 15 new species of “smiley-faced” spiders.Primarily found basking in the Caribbean sun, the arachnids were discovered by a University of Vermont scientist (and four of his students).“This was an undergraduate research project,” spider expert Ingi Agnarsson, a professor of biology at UVM, said in a statement.Named for the smiley face pattern on their abdomens, the Spintharus spider has long been thought to have one widespread species—from northern North America down to northern Brazil.But when a research team from the Caribbean Biogeography Project (CarBio)—spearheaded by Agnarsson of UVM’s Biology Department and Greta Binford at Lewis & Clark College—looked closer, they found more than 15 regional breeds.“And if we keep looking, we’re sure there are more,” Agnarsson said.Say hello to Spintharus davidbowiei (via Agnarsson Lab students)On top of the glory of their discovery, participating students got to christen the insects—some named after beloved family members, others for revered politicians, actors, and musicians.“We all named the Bernie Sanders spider,” according to Lily Sargeant, a project contributor who graduated from UVM last year. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie,” a senator from Vermont. “He presents a feeling of hope.“Our time on this earth is limited,” she said. “But I think that ideas are not that way. It is my hope that through naming that spider after Bernie we can remember the ideas that he has at this pivotal point in the life of our nation.”Not everyone took such a diplomatic route: Student Chloe Van Patten harked back to her high school “obsession”—Leonardo DiCaprio.“I’m over my crush, but now that he’s involved in environmental issues, I love him even more,” the recent graduate said. “So I named a spider after him hoping that if he read our study, he might go out to dinner with me and talk about climate change.”Meet Spintharus berniesandersi (via Agnarsson Lab students)Agnarsson approves of his pupils’ process, explaining that the team “wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change—leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world.”A better world in which the Spintharus genus thrives for decades to come.Unfortunately, conservation concerns may damped those dreams; recent studies suggest these spiders have not been interbreeding (exchanging genes) for millions of years.“Thoughts about conservation change dramatically when you go from having a common, widespread species to an endemic on, say, Jamaica, that has very specific conservation needs,” Agnarsson said.Good taxonomy, according to the team, can help protect and preserve Spintharus davidattenboroughi, S. barackobamai, S. michelleobamaae, S. berniesandersi, S. davidbowiei, and S. leonardodicaprioi for future generations.The complete study was published this week in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img

Leave a Reply