CLOSE

9 Spiders and the Stars They Were Named For

When I read that a new spider species was named Heteropoda davidbowie in honor of David Bowie, it reminded me of several other celebrities whose names were enshrined in taxonomy because there are so many new spiders being discovered as distinct species. With a little digging, even more star spiders turned up!

1. David Bowie

German arachnologist Peter Jaeger has discovered 200 species of spiders in the past decade, and has now named one of his finds after singer David Bowie. The new species, a large yellow spider in Malaysia, is called Heteropoda davidbowie. Jaeger said he named the spider to draw attention to the discovery, and to raise awareness of the endangered status of many spiders. Bowie had a 1972 album entitled The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and his 1987 tour was named the Glass Spider Tour.

2. Neil Young

520neilyoung

Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi is a trapdoor spider first discovered in Alabama in 2007. It was described by taxonomist and spider systematist Jason E. Bond and Norman I. Platnick of the American Museum of Natural History. Bond named the creature for Neil Young because he enjoyed his music and respected his work as an activist.

3. Orson Welles

560orsonwelles

An entire genus of giant Hawaiian linyphiid spiders are named after filmmaker Orson Welles. There are several species in the genus Orsonwelles, including Orsonwelles othello, Orsonwelles macbeth, Orsonwelles falstaffius, Orsonwelles bellum, Orsonwelles toledus, and Orsonwelles ambersonorum. These names can be linked to roles he played or movies he made. You can thank biologist Gustavo Hormiga for naming these spiders.

4. Stephen Colbert

550colberti

Aptostichus stephencolberti was named for political satirist  Stephen Colbert after he pretty much demanded the honor upon hearing that Neil Young had a spider named after him. Colbert's is a California trapdoor spider first described by East Carolina University biologist Jason E. Bond, who was also responsible for naming Neil Young's spider.

5. Nelson Mandela

540mandelai

Stasimopus mandelai is a trapdoor spider found in South Africa. The species was named in 2004 by zoologists Brent E. Hendrixson and Jason E. Bond in honor of the former South African president.

6. Harrison Ford

535ford

The spider Calponia harrisonfordi was named for the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars in thanks after Ford narrated a documentary for the London Museum of Natural History in 1994. Arachnologist Norman I. Platnick discovered the spider in 1993. It is tiny, only around 5 millimeters in length, and lives in California.

7. Angelina Jolie

540jolie

Aptostichus angelinajoleae is another species named by Jason E. Bond, this time in collaboration with Amy Stockman. It is a California trapdoor spider that is closely related to Stephen Colbert's spider. In fact, there is some doubt about whether the two species are different.

8. Dizzy Dean

540dizzy

Mastophora dizzydeani is a bolas spider. It makes a sticky ball on a short thread from its silk. The spider swings the ball at its insect prey to trap them. This particular species was discovered by William G. Eberhard and named for baseball player Dizzy Dean.

Since this spider's livelihood depends on throwing a ball fast and accurately, it seems appropriate to name it in honor of one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time, Jerome "Dizzy" Dean.

Dean threw for the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s and '40s and is a Hall of Famer.

9. Frank Zappa

550zappa

The orb weaver spider Pachygnatha zappa was discovered by Robert Bosmans and Jan Bosselaers during expeditions to Mount Cameroon in 1981 and 1983. They presented the species in 1994. They noticed markings under the spider's abdomen that reminded them of musician Frank Zappa. His moustache in particular.

"Etymology. Zappa is a noun in apposition. This species epithet is given in honor of the twentieth century composer Frank Zappa (1941-1993), well known for both his serious and commercial music. The dark grey mark on the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache (Fig. 69)"

Frank Zappa also had a jellyfish (Phialella zappai) and a fish genus (Zappa, a genus of Gobiidae) named in his honor, but the spider is the only one of the three that resembled him.

If you think a spider should be named after you, there are several scientific departments you can contact to try your luck.

See also: 10 Animals Named After Celebrities.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Medicine
New Cancer-Fighting Nanobots Can Track Down Tumors and Cut Off Their Blood Supply
iStock
iStock

Scientists have developed a new way to cut off the blood flow to cancerous tumors, causing them to eventually shrivel up and die. As Business Insider reports, the new treatment uses a design inspired by origami to infiltrate crucial blood vessels while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

A team of molecular chemists from Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences describe their method in the journal Nature Biotechnology. First, they constructed robots that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair from strands of DNA. These tiny devices contain enzymes called thrombin that encourage blood clotting, and they're rolled up tightly enough to keep the substance contained.

Next, researchers injected the robots into the bloodstreams of mice and small pigs sick with different types of cancer. The DNA sought the tumor in the body while leaving healthy cells alone. The robot knew when it reached the tumor and responded by unfurling and releasing the thrombin into the blood vessel that fed it. A clot started to form, eventually blocking off the tumor's blood supply and causing the cancerous tissues to die.

The treatment has been tested on dozen of animals with breast, lung, skin, and ovarian cancers. In mice, the average life expectancy doubled, and in three of the skin cancer cases tumors regressed completely.

Researchers are optimistic about the therapy's effectiveness on cancers throughout the body. There's not much variation between the blood vessels that supply tumors, whether they're in an ovary in or a prostate. So if triggering a blood clot causes one type of tumor to waste away, the same method holds promise for other cancers.

But before the scientists think too far ahead, they'll need to test the treatments on human patients. Nanobots have been an appealing cancer-fighting option to researchers for years. If effective, the machines can target cancer at the microscopic level without causing harm to healthy cells. But if something goes wrong, the bots could end up attacking the wrong tissue and leave the patient worse off. Study co-author Hao Yan believes this latest method may be the one that gets it right. He said in a statement, "I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology."

[h/t Business Insider]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios