CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, has named 150 new species in the past year, including a group of soldier flies that have been given the designation Opaluma rupaul, in a nod to the prolific entertainer and media personality.
"Opaluma" comes from the Latin words for "opal" and "thorn." It was chosen to reflect the bright colours the flies have along with a distinctive horn on the abdomen.
“Many of the thirteen new soldier flies I named are from areas impacted by the Black Summer bushfires,” Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the National Research Collections Australia, Dr. Bryan Lessard said in a statement on the CSIRO website.
“Two of these, Opaluma opulens and Antissella puprasina, have now been recognised as endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and are known only from Lamington National Park in Queensland, an area that was significantly burned in the bushfires. Soldier flies are valuable in the ecosystem. The larvae recycle nutrients from dead plants and animals, while adults are pollinators of some Australian plants.”
'Rainbow colors & legs for days': Australian fly species named after RuPaul @BrytheFlyGuy https://t.co/PeP026BLTh pic.twitter.com/nMfRwrDRRl
‘Rainbow colors & legs for days’: Australian fly species named after RuPaul RuPaul on Twitter: "'Rainbow colors & legs for days': Australian fly species named after RuPaul @BrytheFlyGuy https://t.co/PeP026BLTh pic.twitter.com/nMfRwrDRRl / Twitter" RuPaul on Twitter: "'Rainbow colors & legs for days': Australian fly species named after RuPaul @BrytheFlyGuy https://t.co/PeP026BLTh pic.twitter.com/nMfRwrDRRl / Twitter" RuPaul on Twitter: "'Rainbow colors & legs for days': Australian fly species named after RuPaul @BrytheFlyGuy https://t.co/PeP026BLTh pic.twitter.com/nMfRwrDRRl / Twitter"
THE NAME GAME
Experts say describing and naming Australia's creatures will create a better understanding of the nation's biodiversity and help protect endangered species.
Naming species after famous figures is a method used to catch the public's attention and teach them about the ecosystem.
Following along that vein, Yun Hsiao, a Ph.D. student at The Australian National University, discovered a trio of beetles while searching the Australian National Insect Collection, and named them after the rare Pokémon Articuno, a bird of ice, Zapdos, a bird of lightning, and Moltres, a firebird.
The beetles are included among the 150 CSIRO-named species.
"I always feel that there is a barrier/high wall between academics and the public," Hsiao told The Weather Network.
A closeup of Opaluma rupaul.(CSIRO)
"People don't know the importance of some subjects, and researchers have no way to promote their discoveries and the importance of their research. I think it is nice to connect the popular culture to biotaxonomy to raise people’s awareness about conservation of the amazing diversity of our earth ecosystem."
Hsiao says taxonomy -- i.e., the study of naming, describing, and classifying organisms, is one of humanity's important missions.
"I always say, 'no name, no game,'" he says.
"As the most intelligent species on Earth, we humans have an inescapable responsibility to clarify the diversity of life. Taxonomy is also the keystone of all the subjects of biological science. Without knowing the names, you cannot continue any other biological research. For instance, if you cannot identify the pest, how can you figure out the right way to control it?"
Thumbnail image created by Cheryl Santa Maria. Photo courtesy: CSIRO.