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A parasite named Obama

Obama is a parasite.

He’s also a fungus, a spider and an extinct lizard.

But before President Obama’s critics rejoice, having unappealing species named after you is apparently a good thing.

“Honestly, it’s difficult for me to envision a higher honor,” Jason Bond, an Auburn University professor, told the Loop. “It’s permanent. In science, there are few things that we do as scientists that has the permanency that taxonomy does.”

Bond, a spider expert at the university’s Department of Biological Sciences and its Museum of Natural History, discovered several new species of trapdoor spiders in late 2012, and named one of his favorites, “Aptostichus barackobamai” after the president. It had unique characteristics, Bond said, like Obama.

This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for a Barack Obama Preparatory High School to open in fall 2017. There are already schools, and roads, and even a mountain in Antigua, with the sitting president’s name.

Bond called the White House to let them know “there’s a really cool trapdoor spider named for” Obama, but never heard back. The president is, however, well aware that a high school in his home state is in the works.

“I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but he knows about it and he’s excited about it,” Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

We wonder if Obama would feel the same about these:

1. In December 2012, Bond named a new trapdoor spider “Aptostichus barackobamai” after Obama. The spider, according to LiveScience, builds a protective shield and hides behind it before attacking prey (insert joke about dealing with House GOP).

(Courtesy: Jason Bond)

2. In April 2009, a researcher at the University of California Riverside found a new lichen species, which is a kind of fungi, and named it “Caloplaca obamae,” according to a press release from the university.

(Courtesy: J.C. Lendemer)

3. In November 2012, new fish species were named after Democratic presidents, who were committed to environmental protection, according to a Scientific American article. The “Etheostoma obama” is a bright orange fish speckled with blue marks. The other partisan fish are named for former Presidents Clinton, Carter and Roosevelt. A fifth fish is named for former Vice President Al Gore.

(Courtesy artist: Joseph Tomelleri)

4. In April 2012, a new parasite was discovered near Obama’s father’s birthplace in Kenya. The hairworm, unique because it can reproduce without a male, is named “Paragordius obamai” in honor of the president, according to the University of New Mexico.

Adult female worm laying eggs (Courtesy: Ben Hanelt)
Adult female worm laying eggs (Courtesy: Ben Hanelt)

5. In December 2012, just after Obama won re-election, Yale scientists named an ancient extinct lizard species “Obamadon.” According to a Boston Globe story, the scientists waited until after the election because they didn’t want Obama to think they were calling him extinct if he’d lost.

Right lower jaw (Courtesy: Nick Longrich)




Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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