The Washington Post

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.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 18%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.