It’s pink and it’s loud, so its discoverers have named it in tribute to their favourite band.
Swimming in a fish bowl… Synalpheus pinkfloydi
A strikingly bright pink-clawed species of pistol shrimp, discovered on the Pacific coast of Panama, has been given the ultimate rock ’n’ roll name in recognition of the discoverers’ favourite rock band, Pink Floyd.
The conspicuously coloured pistol shrimp has been named as Synalpheus pinkfloydi in the scientific description of the species, just published in Zootaxa journal.
Just like all good rock bands, pistol shrimps or snapping shrimps have an ability to generate substantial amounts of sonic energy. By closing its enlarged claw rapidly, the shrimp creates — and implodes — a high-pressure cavitation bubble. The implosion results in one of the loudest sounds in the ocean, strong enough to stun or even kill a small fish.
The percussive noise, together with the distinct, almost luminously pink colour of the snapping claw, made Synalpheus pinkfloydi the name of choice for the report’s authors, Sammy De Grave, of Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History, Arthur Anker of the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, and Kristin Hultgren of Seattle University in the USA.
They follow in a tradition of scientists honouring popular culture with new taxonomical names. Another crustacean, the sand-crab Albunea groeningi, is named after Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons cartoon. There is a mite, Funkotriplgynium iagobadius, named after James Brown (Latin Iago ‘James’ and badius ‘brown’). And Gerald Scarfe, who drew the beak-nosed caricatures for Pink Floyd’s The Wall, has a pterosaur named after him, Cuspicephalus scarfi.
The band’s albums include Animals, with airborne inflatable pig on its cover
A life-long Pink Floyd fan, Dr De Grave admitted he has been waiting for the opportunity to name the right new species after the band.
‘I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old,’ said Dr De Grave, Head of Research at the Museum of Natural History. ‘I’ve seen them play live several times since, including the Hyde Park reunion gig for Live 8 in 2005. The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band.’
Synalpheus pinkfloydi is not the only pistol shrimp with such a lurid claw. Its closely-related and similar-looking sister species, Synalpheus antillensis, scientifically described in 1909, is found in the western Atlantic, including the Caribbean side of Panama. But the authors of the new paper found that the two species show considerable genetic divergence, granting S. pinkfloydi a new species status and its very own rock and roll name.
Animals feature frequently in the Floyd back-catalogue — conspicuously so in the 1977 album Animals, with tracks titled ‘Dogs’, ‘Sheep’, ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ and ‘Pigs on the Wing’ – and a giant inflatable pig on the cover. It is cows that grace the cover of 1970 album Atom Heart Mother. Then there is the track ‘Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict’, from 1969’s Ummagumma. In fact, other biologists have already named a damselfly after that album: Umma gumma, in the family Calopterygidae.
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This article is reproduced by permission from Oxford University’s News and Events page; edited and with the addition of further taxonomical examples from Mark Isaak’s Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature website.
Synalpheus pinkfloydi photographed by Arthur Anker. Pink Floyd albums photographed by Dean Bertoncelj, via Shutterstock.