Think about it for a moment: what is Bob Marley famous for? Well, as of this week, Bob Marley will be a music icon, but also a “gnathiid isopod”. A scientist named a bloodsucking parasite after music icon Bob Marley.
The bloodsucking parasite doesn’t have that much in common to Bob Marley. Perhaps the most likely common thing would be, the small fish lives in the Caribbean. In the end, scientists get to name discoveries, so why wouldn’t such a discovery honor a world-renowned and loved artist. Maybe the Bob Marley fish will bring back the celebrity naming trend.
Paul Sikkel, assistant professor of marine ecology, is the scientist that made this unusual choice. The Arkansas State University field marine biologist decided Bob Marley is a right fit with its tiny parasitic crustacean that feeds on blood and can even infest some vulnerable fish. The species is called Gnathia marleyi but Sikkel’s parasite was named “gnathiid isopod”.
The scientist’s explanation reads: “I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley’s music”. Sikkel also adds the species “is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley”.
But when it comes to the parasite’s main traits it’s really hard to see a connection to Bob Marley. Just read what scientist Paul Sikkel says about his discovery. “…gnathiids, in general, are the most common external parasites found on coral reefs and are ecologically similar to land-based blood-sucking ticks or disease-carrying mosquitos”.
The discovery almost happened by accident. Sikkel and his fellow researchers have long studied the damage of commercial fishing in the coral reefs environment. The Gnathia marleyi was not in the beginning in the focus, but after Sikkel sent some specimens to other researchers in South Africa, the Bob Marley bloodsucking parasite was suddenly under the spotlight.
Bob Marley isn’t the first celebrity to be honored with a discovery’s naming. President Barack Obama was honored by naming a California lichen, while both former President George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger are now also beetles’ names. But Beyonce is perhaps the one that got the best fitting. A golden rear end horsefly was named Beyonce in the singer’s honor.