10 Animal Species Named After Bands
What is it with scientists and Nightwish? A newly-discovered species of coral reef crab was recently named Tanidromites nightwishorum after the band. And three years before that, an insect was named Sciophila holopaineni after keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen by conservationist Jukka Salmela.
Scientists don’t just love the Finnish symphonic metallers, though. Over the years, different species have been famously named (if you’re a science buff and read science papers) in tribute to bands like Queen (damselflies), Ramones (trilobites), Sex Pistols (trilobites, again), Muse (a wasp) and AC/DC’s Angus Young and his late brother, Malcolm (Australian arthropod fossils).
It got us thinking… which other bands and musicians have been bestowed science’s greatest honour? We donned our white lab coats and got down to some serious research.
Cannibal Corpse’s Alex Webster
In 2017, two metal loving scientists named a petrifying, huge worm after Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster. The 400-million-year-old marine specimen, whose full name is Websteroprion armstrongi, was originally discovered by Derek Armstrong and stored at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum. Twenty-three years later, it was subject of a report by Luke Parry of University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and Dr. Mats E. Eriksson of Sweden’s Lund University. “Alex Webster is a monstrously good bass player,” explains Luke. “I play bass and was influenced by him hugely as a teenager, especially his work with Blotted Science and Cannibal Corpse. Alex just seemed like the perfect fit for a giant worm with saw-like jaws.” The worm must have had a fantastic personality.
It wasn’t the first time that Dr. Eriksson managed to sneak his love of metal into his line of work. In 2012, he named the fossilised remains of another old worm after Mercyful Fate vocalist King Diamond. “The critter was baptised Kingnites diamondi in honour of [the] Danish metal maestro,” explains the professor of palaeontology. “So, in addition to his obvious place in the history of heavy metal music, Diamond now also has left an eternal imprint in science.”
Earlier this year, a deep-sea crustacean was named after Metallica by Senckenberg researcher Dr. Torben Riehl and his colleague Dr. Bart De Smet from Belgium’s Ghent University. The worm-like creature was found in the North Pacific and named Macrostylis metallicola by Torben in honour of one of his favourite bands. “The powerful music of Metallica has accompanied me the majority of my life,” he says. “Songs such as Master Of Puppets and One are outstanding masterpieces in rock history and I am thrilled to be able to give something back to the band by naming a new species after them!” At the time of writing, the crustacean is still not available from the band’s official store. Missing a trick there, lads.
Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson
In 2019, Brazilian biologist Christina Rheims discovered four new species of spider. One was named after the Iron Maiden frontman, Extraordinarius bruceickinsoni, possibly on account of his soaring vocal range, fencing prowess and piloting skills. Scorpions’ vocalist Klaus Meine, Def Leppard’s Rick Allen and late Angra singer Andre Matos were also honoured in the arachnid-themed roll call. “This is the kind of music I like and I usually listen to,” says Christina, who has named over 200 different kinds of creepy crawlies.
‘Knew I had to bite you, baby, when I first set eyes on you,’ growled the late, great Lemmy on the lust-fuelled Love Me Like A Reptile. It made sense, then, that a 19-foot, Jurassic-era crocodile would be named after the iconic Motörhead frontman. Lemmysuchus – meaning ‘Lemmy’s crocodile’ – was originally discovered in Peterborough in 1909 and only given an official name a few years ago. “It’s big, ugly and quite scary,” says researcher Lorna Steel. “We think that Lemmy would have liked it. For me, this is a career high, and I can now die happy.”
The Clash’s Joe Strummer
A spiked, deep sea snail was named Alviconcha strummeri in honour of the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer in 2014. “Because they look like punk rockers in the ’70s and ’80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon,” Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Shannon Johnson told Santa Cruz Sentinel. They could have worked in a mollusc-themed pun featuring the Clash classic Rudie Can’t Fail, but maybe scientists have got bigger, undiscovered fish to fry. Or at least examine.
In 2009, a tiny tree frog was discovered in the Amazon rainforest, alerting a team of biologists with its high-pitched “bat-voice”. “We kept talking about the ‘bat frog’, which led to us talking about being fans of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath,” says Pedro Pelso, giving a subtle nod to that 1981 gig where the Double-O bit the head off an actual bat. It was named Dendropsophus ozzyi, and experts believe its unique sound exhorted the rainforest’s inhabitants to “go fucking crazy”. The last bit was made up just now.
People following the fortunes of the Paramunnidae woodlice species were delighted discover that a new addition was found in the Tasman sea. They’ll have been even more delighted that it was named Pentaceration bifficlyro in honour of the Scottish trio. We’ve seen a photo and wouldn’t have the spiky-looking bastard in the house. Biffy, however, are always welcome.
Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin
“Qiliania is an extinct genus of early bird from the lower Cretaceous (Aptian stage) about 120 million years ago,” reads an entry on a very popular online encyclopaedia. Skeletal remains were discovered in China in 2011 and the new species was named Qiliania graffini after the Bad Religion’s vocalist’s “contributions to evolutionary biology, his public out-reach through music, and his inspiration to young scientists around the world”. “Ever since I found out that the lead singer of my favourite punk rock band was a palaeontologist published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, I wanted to name a species after him,” revealed Jingmai O’Connor.
When a “muscly fossil fireworm” was discovered by a team including Luke Parry (see Cannibal Corpse, above), common sense prevailed when a decision was reached to name it Rollinschaeta myoplena after the Rollins Band vocalist, author and traveling raconteur. “Fossil muscle tissue is rare and usually not described in any detail by palaeontologists, but our discovery highlights that soft tissues preserved in fossils can offer details approaching what we can observe in living organisms,” writes Luke. “When choosing a name for our muscly beast, we decided to honour Henry Rollins, the legendary, muscular frontman of hardcore punk band Black Flag.”
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