Welcome Back to the Lab!

With all the buzz surrounding the Missoula Butterfly House lately, it’s hard not to feel a little like celebrities. After our most successful Missoula Gives campaign EVER, the launch of our capital campaign, and the upcoming groundbreaking on our new home, I certainly feel like we’re in the center spotlight. It only felt appropriate to revisit some other celebrities of the insect world. 

After an exhaustive Google search which included academic queries like “funny bugs,” “silly bugs,” and “bugs that make me laugh” I present: Bugs Whose Scientific Names Prove that Scientists are All Just that Nerdy Kid that Got a Cool Job One Day. (I count myself among them).

Heteropoda davidbowie

This one goes out to all the music nerds: H. davidbowie, the huntsman spider named for Ziggy Stardust himself. Peter Jäger, the German arachnologist who named the spider, claims to have drawn inspiration from Bowie’s 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The spider is found in forested regions of southeast Asia, typically on tree barkJäger has named over 200 species of spider, including a recent species of huntsman described in Madagascar, which he named after Greta Thunberg.

Star Wars Bugs

T. chewbacca

Bugs aren’t the only animals that have been graced with Star Wars-influenced scientific names. Everything from bacteria to a fish that actually resembles its namesake, with plenty of bugs in between. 

Harrison Ford has not only an ant, but a spider named for him, and a species of trilobite named for his character Han Solo. There are three species of brachonid wasps named for Darth Vader, Yoda, and Chewbacca. The Sarlacc trapdoor spider. Jedi ants. The list truly goes on. Personally, I’m more of a Star Trek fan, but don’t worry fellow trekkies: we have our fair share of Trek-inspired arthropods.

Agra schwarzeneggeri

Scientists could’t help noticing that this species of carabid beetle looked particularly… buff. The males have enlarged middle femora that gives the impression that they’ve never skipped leg day… they just only worked on one set of legs. 

According to Terry L. Erwin, the entomologist who graced this muscle-y beetle with its name:

“… [my] students had prepared an image of A. schwarzeneggeri and sent it out to Schwarzenegger himself: he signed it “Thanks for thinking of me – Arnold” and returned it.”

Strigiphilus garylarsoni

This one is easily my favorite. I grew up reading Gary Larson comics, which probably primed me for a career in a scientific field (I’m sure there were other influences, too). What scientist doesn’t love a good Gary Larson comic? I personally keep several tucked away in our lab notebooks. 

Gary Larson was apparently quite honored to have this species of chewing louse named for him:

“In a letter to Larson, Clayton praised the cartoonist for “the enormous contribution that my colleagues and I feel you have made to biology through your cartoons.” In his book The Prehistory of the Far Side, Larson stated, “I considered this an extreme honor. Besides, I knew no one was going to write and ask to name a new species of swan after me. You have to grab these opportunities when they come along.””

Until next time, thanks for visiting the lab!

Bug Wrangler Brenna

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