Shine on you crazy shrimp: New species named after Pink Floyd

12 Apr 2017

A shrimp has been named after Pink Floyd. Image: Marco G Faria/Shutterstock

A pistol shrimp found off the coast of Panama, with a punch stronger than a pin prick, has been named after Pink Floyd.

The brightly coloured pistol shrimp found on the Pacific coast of Panama has been given the official name Synalpheus pinkfloydi, in recognition of its pink appendage and its discoverer’s adoration for the British rock band, Pink Floyd.

Published in today’s Zootaxa journal, the Synalpheus pinkfloydi discovery is another brick in what is becoming a wall of species that have been named after celebrities.

Us and them

Pistol shrimp, otherwise known as snapping shrimp, generate substantial amounts of sonic energy by manipulating their claw with random precision.

When closing it at rapid speed, the shrimp creates a high-pressure cavitation bubble. If the cloud of water bursts (thunder in your ear?), the implosion results in one of the loudest sounds in the ocean – strong enough to stun or even kill a small fish that would preferably be swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

Sammy De Grave from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is co-author on the paper and the reason behind such a musical nomenclature.

Synalpheus pinkfloydi. Image: Sammy De Grave

Synalpheus pinkfloydi. Image: Sammy De Grave

“I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old,” said De Grave.

“I’ve seen them play live several times since. The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band,” he added.

Synalpheus pinkfloydi is not the only pistol shrimp with such a distinctive look, as its closely related sister species, Synalpheus antillensis, can be found on the Caribbean coast of Panama. One might say that the sun is the same in a relative way to both, though evolution saw a divergence between the neighbouring duo.

Who knows which is which, and who is who? Just the basic facts show a very subtle, visible difference between the two. However, instead of running over the same old ground, the authors of the new paper found that the shrimp show considerable genetic divergence, granting Synalpheus pinkfloydi a new species status.

Highest form of flattery

Unwitting celebrity endorsements are nothing new to scientific discovery. A few years back, a newly discovered shrimp-like species was named after Elton John as scientists noticed some sort of resemblance to the singer’s shoes.

Leucothoe eltoni, via Dr James Thomas

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

In January, a new species of moth was named after US president Donald Trump, largely due to its very similar hairstyle. Sad.

Moth Donald Trump

The Neopalpa donaldtrumpi moth species was discovered by Vazrick Nazari while going through specimens borrowed from the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Image: Vazrick Nazari/ZooKeys

Elsewhere, scientists from Sun Yat-sen University in China named a new species of primate after Luke Skywalker: the Skywalker hoolock gibbon (hoolock tianxing).

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic