Every year, somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 new species of animal are discovered, so how do scientists come up with original names for them? Not surprisingly, some seek inspiration in the world of popular culture, as witnessed recently when a scientist discovered a fossil of an extinct creature with scissor-like claws, and named it Kooteninchela deppi in honour of – you guessed it – Edward Scissorhands star Johnny Depp.
It’s not simply a matter of randomly attaching any name to a new species you think you may have discovered in the field or a museum. Your findings have to be accepted for publication in a scientific journal for you to give it a name – but once that’s done it lasts forever.
Naming species after celebrities is a very good way to draw attention to your finding. Some are a tribute, like the small crustacean parasite named after reggae legend Bob Marley. Some are clever, as in the mite Funkotriplogynium iagobadius named in honour of James Brown (iago meaning James, and badius meaning Brown). Some are a blatant ploy to meet heroes, as in the scientist who named a species of jellyfish after Frank Zappa (which worked).
Here, we list some of the weird and wonderful species named after famous... and infamous people.