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Published On: Tue, Sep 26th, 2017

Bernie Sanders, Leonardo DiCaprio have spiders named after them

We have seen in recent years a number of newly discovered species named after popular politicians or entertainers.

Former President Barack Obama has two parasites named after him, while the late reggae star, Bob Marley had the honor of being the namesake of a new crustacean. 

Spintharus berniesandersi
Image/Agnarsson lab

Now a new paper published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society has identified and named 15 new species of spider in the Caribbean and many are named after those with political, scientific or entertainment fame.

A scientist at the University of Vermont, Biology professor Ingi Agnarsson and four of his undergraduate students named the “smiley-faced” spiders after, among others– David Attenborough, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Here is a little more detail:

Spintharus barackobamai
In honor of former President Barack Obama the authors of the paper named this species to honor “the dignity, humanitarianism, statesmanship, and respect” they considered Obama to have brought to the oval office.

“I’m a second-generation American and I’m black,” says Lily Sargeant. “It is through a diversity of perspectives that we achieve innovation in science and I appreciate how much the Obamas value diversity.”

Image/Glynnis Fawkes

Spintharus berniesandersi
Named for former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, this species was named to honor a politician the paper characterizes as “a tireless fighter for human rights and equality, and environmentally aware social democracy.”

Each student who helped describe the spiders also got to name a few of them–and some were named for beloved family members, “but we all named the Bernie Sanders spider,” says Lily Sargeant, one of the students who worked on the project, and who graduated from UVM last year. “We all have tremendous respect for Bernie. He presents a feeling of hope.”

Spintharus davidattenboroughi
Named after the naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, this species was titled to honour his “extraordinary effort to enlighten the public about the wonders of the natural world, to make humanity care about nature, and for inspiring countless people to pursue the study of biology.”

Spintharus davidbowiei
The article authors named this species to honour “the great artist David Bowie who passed away prematurely in 2016, but whose music will continue to inspire the generations to come.”

Spintharus leonardodicaprioi
This species is named in tribute to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio for his “amazing acting, and, in particular, for his leading role in bringing awareness of the perils of global climate change to the public and politicians.”

For student Chloe Van Patten, her naming process goes back to what she calls a high school “obsession” with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “I’m over my crush, but now that he’s involved in environmental issues, I love him even more. So I named a spider after him hoping that if he read our study,” says the recent UVM graduate, “he might go out to dinner with me and talk about climate change.”

Spintharus michelleobamaae
The authors of the paper named this species in honor of Michelle Obama, “who has long fought to defend human rights, fairness, and equality for all, with her characteristic dignity and grace.”

“This was an undergraduate research project,” says Ingi Agnarsson, associate professor and curator of invertebrate collections in the department of biology at the University of Vermont, who led the new study. “In naming these spiders, the students and I wanted to honor people who stood up for both human rights and warned about climate change–leaders and artists who promoted sensible approaches for a better world.”

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