From Beyonce's horse fly to the Khaleesi slug: 10 weird creatures that are named after pop-culture icons

From Beyonce's horse fly to the Khaleesi slug: 10 weird creatures that are named after pop-culture icons

Scientists are increasingly dropping pop-culture references in the scientific names of newly discovered species to add some fun into the otherwise dry, academic process of naming a new species.

Scientists recently discovered a new species of microbes that grows in the guts of termites and named them after Canadian prog-rock band Rush! The new found micro-organisms all have long hair along the edges called ‘flagella’ which reminded the scientist who discovered them, Patrick Keeling, of the hairdo the members of Rush sported during the 70s.

Rush featured on the rear cover of the 1976 LP 2112. The picture inspired 
scientists to name the newly discovered microbes after the band members.
(Image source:

The three new organisms called pseudotrichonympha leei, pseudotrichonympha lifesoni, and pseudotrichonympha pearti named after long-time members of the band — Geddy Lee (lead vocals), Alex Lifeson (lead guitar), and Neil Peart (drums).

Scientific names of organisms always have a complicated Latin or Greek sounding name and is usually best remembered and forgotten in the pages of our text-books. But it’s interesting to note that in fact, there are practically no rules governing the naming of newly discovered species. This means the scientist has a free hand to draw inspiration from absolutely anywhere! This has lead to a surprising number of pop-culture references and celebrities lending their names to all sorts of fascinating creatures. Here’s a look at 10 scientific names of creatures that have pop-culture references in them:

1. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Bunny

Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, the real-life Playboy mascot! (Image source: Wikipedia/Getty Images)

Sylvilagus palustris hefneri is a type of marsh rabbit named after the king of the Playboy mansion, Hugh Hefner. What better animal than a bunny to pay a tribute to Heff right? He might’ve even kept a few in the Mansion. You never know!

2. Darth Beetle

The Darth Vader Beetle sporting the latest style among insects of the Sith Lord order!
(image source: Wikipeida/Getty Images)

Agathidium vaderi is named in honor of the Star Wars villain, because it has a similar broad, shiny head and slitted eyes. It also feeds on smile molds. Wonder what the Darth Lord would make of that!

3. Bootylicious Horse-Fly

The glamorous golden behind of the Scaptia beyonceae, seen here in contrast with Beyonce's glamorous behind!
(Image source: Wikipeida/Getty Images)

When you look at the glamorous golden lower abdomen on a Scaptia beyonceae, it leaves no doubt as to why the species of hope-fly has been named in honor of Beyonce Knowles!

4. The Bug-inator

The Agra schwarzeneggeri is named for its bulging bicep like appendages, just like Arnie's!
(Image source: Wikipedia/Getty Images)

When scientists took a closer look at this Beetle, now known as Agra schwarzeneggeri it was hard to miss the "markedly developed (biceps-like) middle femora” which look quite a lot like Arnie’s massive arms from the 80’s. Think Predator or Terminator: Judgement Day!

5. The Wasp whose abdomen don’t lie!

The wasp with moves like Shakira has a thorax that don't lie!
(Image Source: Wikipedia/Getty Images)

The wasp species Aleiodes shakirae was named after Shakira in 2014. The official statement for the reason is mind-blowing: "Since parasitism by this species causes the host caterpillar to bend and twist its abdomen in various ways, and Shakira is also famous for her belly-dancing, the name seems particularly appropriate.”

6. Khaleesi Slug

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen looking disdainfully at the sea-slug that dares carry her name!
(Image source: Pinterest)

In 2013, scientists in Brazil discovered a sea slug and named it Tritonia khaleesi after Daenerys Targaryen, the khaleesi and Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones. The reason was the striking resemblance between the slug and the characteristic silver locks of the Targaryen queen.

7. The Mercurial Coral Feeder

Cirolana mercuryi, the African isopod alongside Freddie Mercury, its namesake from the same region.
(Image source: Wikipedia/Getty Images)

Cirolana mercuryi is a species of isopod that grows off the coral reefs off Zanzibar in Tanzania. It was but natural that the scientists named it after Zanzibar’s greatest musical prodigy Freddie Mercury, the frontman of Queen.

8. Mick Jagger Snouted Extinct Pig

Jaggermeryx and the original Jagger, both with their distinct, iconic lips!
(Image source: Pinterest)

A 19-million-year-old species of “long-legged pig” discovered in 2014 was named Jaggermeryx after the Rolling Stones’ legendary front man. Apparently, its “highly innervated muzzle with mobile and tactile lips” were evocative of Jagger’s distinct facial features!

9. Frank Zappa’s Spider

Frank Zappa giving his namkesake spider tips on moustache maintenance!
(Image source: Pinterest)

Pachygnatha zappa is a spider named after experimental rock icon Frank Zappa. Apparently, it has a black marking under its abdomen curiously reminiscent of Frank Zappa's mustache.

10. The Kill Bill Wasp

The wasp and Uma Thurman, both practicing the famous five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique!
(Image source: Wikipedia/Pinterest)

Cystomastacoides kiddo is a parasitic wasp discovered in 2008. It’s named after Uma Thurman’s character Beatrix Kiddo from the 2003 Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill. Its body color is apparently reminiscent of the iconic yellow-with-black-stripes jumpsuit from Kill Bill.

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