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How To Get an Ancient Lizard Named After You: Get Elected President

Simply get elected president, and you'll have a fair chance of some newly discovered creature inheriting your moniker

The Obamadon is that little blue guy in the left corner. Photo: Carl Buell

Want your name to pursue in the form of a fossil, sloth, weed, shell or newt long after you’ve departed this Earth? Simply get elected president, and you’ll have a fair chance of some newly discovered creature inheriting your moniker. This week, Yale and Harvard scientists announced the latest in a line of presidential animals: Obamadon gracilis, a small, insect-eating lizard from the badlands of northeastern Montana that disappeared some 65 million years ago.

The researchers discovered the species while reexamining some old fossil collections. A small creature with a slender jaw seemed fit for the presidency, they thought, though they waited until after the election to make their announcement. “I was seriously thinking, if the election had gone the other way, I would have yanked it,” one of the scientists told “It might have seemed like we were mocking it, naming a lizard that goes extinct after that, seemed kind of cruel.”

Obama is not the first president to be bestowed with such an honor. There’s Agathidium bushi, George W. Bush’s namesake beetle, and Cervus canadensis roosevelti, Theodore Roosevelt’s own majestic elk. Thomas Jefferson got Chesapecten jeffersonius, a an extinct mollusk with a pretty shell, as well as Jeffersonia, aka the rheumatism root and Megalonyx jeffersonii, a prehistoric giant sloth whose name translates into “great claw.” The list goes on. Indeed, the Obamadon is not even president Obama’s first play at this species-naming game. In 2009, researchers announced the discovery of Caloplaca obamae, a type of often sterile lichen that cows like to graze on, and, more recently, a different group of ecologist and biologist introduced the Etheostoma obama, a small spangled darter.

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