Nautilus

Why Shouldn’t a Horsefly Be Named After Beyoncé?

At best, names for species derived from celebrities and scientists become maps to hidden treasure, rewarding those who follow the trail of clues with stories of fascinating people and human history.Photograph by Ronald Woan / Flickr

David Bowie and Beyoncé never shared a stage, but they share the distinction of having cleverly eponymous species names in their honor. Bowie, the British glam-rock and pop sensation, is immortalized in the name of a Malaysian huntsman spider, Heteropoda davidbowie. Beyoncé, the American R&B and pop singer who’s been as inescapable since the turn of the 21st century as Bowie was in his own heyday, is honored in the name of a horsefly. It’s one of five new species added to the Australian genus Scaptia in 2011 by Bryan Lessard and David Yeates. Only three specimens have ever been collected, and they sat unidentified in museum collections for decades before being recognized as distinct from their relatives, and new to science. Scaptia beyoncae is distinguished from other Scaptia species by its “conspicuous golden tomentum on tergite four onwards”—or less technically, by its rounded and golden derrière.

In explaining the name’s etymology, Lessard and Yeates said only that the “specific epithet is in honor and its description, then, are presumably in agreement with the artist herself.

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