One Spider Genus Has Species Named for Star Wars Monsters, U2, Cesar Chavez and Obama

The discovery of 33 new trapdoor spider species in the U.S. Southwest kicked off a celebrity species-naming throw down

Female specimen of Aptostichus barackobamai. Photo: Jason Bond

After identifying 33 new trapdoor spider species in the U.S. Southwest, one Auburn University arachnologist went on a binge of naming spiders after celebrities.

The species genus, Aptostichus, already contians a couple celebrities in its midst: Aptostichus stephencolberti and Aptostichus angelinajolieae. Now, those spiders are joined by a colorful assortment of hot names, including A. barackobamai, for President Obama; A. bonoi, for U2′s lead singer Bono; and A. chavezi, for Mexican American civil rights and labor activist Cesar Chavez. On the geekier end, one spider is called A. sarlacc, for the Star Wars monster the Sarlacc of the desert planet Tatooine. His favorite specimen, though, is named for his daughter Elisabeth.

Besides giving the researcher a chance to release his inner fanboy and to bestow his daughter with an odd but sweet holiday gift, he also points out that such a remarkable find speaks volumes to how little we know of the biodiversity around us and how many species on the planet still await discovery.

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