A close-up of an adult male gnathiid is pictured in this handout picture supplied by the National Science Foundation, July 10, 2012. Reggae musician Bob Marley has joined Barack Obama and Elvis Presley in the elite club of those who have biological species named in their honor. In Marley's case, it's a small parasitic crustacean blood feeder that infests fish in Caribbean coral reefs, now known as Gnathia marleyi. (Photo : /National Science Foundation/H)
Researchers have finally found the perfect official name for a species of tiny, parasitic crustacean found in coral reefs in the shallow eastern Caribbean Sea: Bob Marley.
In a statement on Tuesday, they said the new name is a tributary gesture meant to honor the late, great musician.
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"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music," said Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology at Arkansas State University. "Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley."
Sikkel first discovered Gnathia marleyi about a decade ago in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it was so common that he assumed the species had already been studied. He learned the little blood feeders infest certain fish by hiding in coral rubble or algae and launching surprise attacks. Like mosquitos or ticks, other members of the gnathid family, these crustaceans are responsible for many diseases afflicting coral-reef fish, and the effects of climate change degrading their habitat isn't helping either.
"We suspect that coral degradation leads to more available habitat for external parasites to 'launch attacks' on host fishes," Sikkel said. "And as the number of potential host fish decreases, each remaining host will become more heavily parasitized."
The only question now is whether the Gnathia marleyi will hold up against its peers: a beetle named after Roy Orbison, some lichen named for President Obama, two insects named after Stephen Colbert, and arguably the most famous of all, the rare Australian horse fly named after Beyonce because of it's large, glamorous golden butt.
Researcher Bryan Lessard, from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, explained his decision to name the Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae species, "the all-time diva of flies."
"It was the unique dense golden hairs on the fly's abdomen that led me to name this fly in honor of the performer Beyonce as well as giving me the chance to demonstrate the fun side of taxonomy - the naming of species," he said.