It’s the circle of life: Crustacean named after Elton John

27 Aug 2015

A newly-discovered shrimp-like species has been named after Elton John as scientists noticed some sort of resemblance to the singer’s shoes. Yep.

I thought it was gonna be a long, long time before another crustacean was named after a popular public figure but, following yesterday’s news of Cherax Snowden – a crayfish named after the former NSA contractor – I stand corrected.

Some might say naming creatures after celebrities is a sad, sad situation. However, it’s getting more and more absurd, as Dr James Thomas coined the name after noticing L. Eltoni had a very large appendage.

“I named the species in honour of Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career,” the scientist from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography said.

“So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind,” said Thomas, whose findings appear in ZooKeys.

Leucothoe eltoni, via Dr James Thomas

Leucothoe eltoni, via Dr James Thomas

Oh, but L. Eltoni is a weird and wonderful crustacean that lives within another reef invertebrate, without harming it. Discovered in Indonesia, Thomas has since found out it has been found as far away as Hawaii.

It most likely took a ride from a hitchhiker at some stage, spreading its range far and wide, not letting the sun go down on it, so to speak.

It’s impossible to predict how species can affect new environments when they are transported away from their ecosystem. But in many cases it’s no sacrifice, no sacrifice at all, with the majority of rehomings going completely unnoticed.

However, L. Eltoni’s still standing after all this time, with reports of its adaptation to ecosystems in the Philippines, too. Looking like a true survivor, it was only spotted in Hawaii because scientists there have been closely monitoring their environment for a while now.

“Such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments,” said Thomas, who hopes discoveries like this will help provide greater information on reef health.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic