[This extremely nerdy piece was my column for GlobalNews.ca over the weekend. I regret nothing. – AC]
The rule in science is that if you discover a new species of animal, you get to give it a two-word Latin name using some hard-and-fast conventions in the area of biological taxonomy. First comes the genus (which is always capitalized) followed by the species. Both are required to be italicized. Latin is used for this because it’s a dead language and thus suited as a neutral way of naming things.
These rules can be tracked to a Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist who took over from the biblical Adam to name all the creatures of the earth, everything from viruses to whales
While the genus cannot be changed, the discoverer can come up with whatever they’d like for the species.
Take the recent case of Christina Rheims, a biological scientist in San Paolo, Brazil, who spends a lot of time combing through the Amazon for new species of spiders. She found four in the genus Extraordinarius, which gave her the right to come up with some names that will be applied to these arachnids worldwide for all time.
Christina is a metal fan, so she decided on the following: Extraordinarius brucedickinsoni (named after Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden), Extraordinarius klausmeinei (Klaus Meine of The Scorpions)
Extraordinarius andrematosi (named after Andre Matos of Brazilian heavy metal act Angra), and Extraordinarius rickalleni (honouring one-armed Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen).
This is not the first time musicians have been honoured this way.