Political taxonomy: Obama gets a lichen, a worm, and a carnivorous lizard

There is already a lichen — Caloplaca obamae — and a worm — Paragordius obamai — named after Barack Obama. Now he also has Obamadon gracilis, an ancient, extinct, carnivorous lizard.

You can read a full write-up on Obamadon at Carolyn Johnson's Science in Mind blog. It includes some behind-the-scenes detail on the amusing considerations one has to take into account when one decides to name a specimen after a sitting president just before an election.

But I also wanted to take this opportunity to point you towards Curious Taxonomy, a fantastic list of creatures great and small and the sometimes surprising celebrities they have been named after. In the list you'll find a dinosaur named for Ross Perot, a ridiculous number of animals and plants named after Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and no fewer than three creatures named for Stephen Colbert.

And if you're noting that the selection of animals named in honor of Obama are not exactly the world's most flattering, never fear. Taxonomy is kind of bipartisan in its possibly-maybe-accidental insults. George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney have a trio of slime mold beetles.


    1. Here’s the link:  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/2012/11/29/all-the-presidents-fish-five-new-species-named-after-obama-clinton-roosevelt-carter-and-gore/

  1.  I like Obama, voted twice for him, but I think naming things after people instead of using their characteristics to derive a Latin name is doing an injustice to all things discovered and named during our generation… this generation of celebrity.
    The Cobra Lilly, Darlingtonia californica, is not named that way because of its very unusual shape, or its carnivorous characteristics, but instead named after a Philadelphian botanist William Darlington.
    In this age of scientific enlightenment, can we not leave shout-outs to the internet message boards…

    1. But honestly, how many latin words are there that really provide succinct and useful descriptions of lichens?

    2. Bring back the good old days where we named dinosaurs “Tyrannosaurus” because we found traces of fossilized absolutist government among their bones…

      Honestly, now that classification has moved (especially for still extant, or very well preserved organisms) into gene sequencing and phylogenetics, binomial nomenclature is either going to have to get itself some very long words, or be content with being little more than a ‘common name’ with some schoolboy latinisms thrown in. It’s just too short, and too unsystematic to possibly cope with the level of detail involved in classifications today.

  2. Of course, on the other side of the fence they tend to be named after less savoury creatures.

    Yog Palinoth.  Mitt Shuggurath.

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