A deep sea snail with purple blood, spiked shell and living near hydrothermal vents are so reminiscent of the punk rock movement of the 1970s and 80s, the team that discovered a new species named it after Joe Strummer, the iconic co-founder of The Clash.
The snail genus Alviniconcha’s spikes may have gotten the team thinking in an new direction in naming of the species. The golf ball-sized snails are found brooding near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, as deep as 11,500 feet. They look identical but are in fact separate species, Johnson confirmed after studying their DNA.
“Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon,” said Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Now known as A. strummeri in honor of the late Strummer, the snail joins a league of species named after iconic musicians of note — a Bob Marley crustacean parasite, and a species of jellyfish named after Frank Zappa.
According to Quentin Wheeler, director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at SUNY, scientists mostly use celebrity names to draw attention to their work, taxonomy and biodiversity. “In our culture, it is one sure way to get species noticed,” Wheeler said. “Some scientists frown on the practice, but their science is in trouble, and if a little humor helps, why not?”
Johnson, the lead author of the study, published the findings in the journal Systematics and Biodiversity this month. The paper introduces five new species found in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
“This gets people excited about science,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, people might not see these snails.”
[via Santa Cruz Sentinel]