10 Fossils Named for Rock Stars

Fossils rock. So much so that paleontologists have named a whole menagerie of prehistoric critters after their favorite musicians. Here’s a rundown of some of the fantastic prehistoric species named in honor of rock stars.

1. Masiakasaurus knopfleri

Picking away at ancient rock all day can be a little tedious, so paleontologists often bring music out into the field to help the days go faster. Some songs seem to be luckier than others. Paleontologists working in the 70 million year old rock of Madagascar kept finding lots of bones of a dog-sized predatory dinosaur whenever they put Dire Straits on the radio—so when it was time to name the snaggletoothed dinosaur (above), they dubbed it Masiakasaurus knopfleri in honor of the band’s singer, Mark Knopfler.

2. Qiliania graffini

This feathered dinosaur is named after Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin. Belonging to an extinct group of avians with teeth and claws called enantiornithes, the 120 million year old Qiliania graffini is yet another species that confirms the fact that birds are dinosaurs.

3. Barbaturex morrisoni

At about six feet long, the 50 million year old iguana Barbaturex was the biggest plant-eating lizard of all time. Such superlative size requires a fitting name. Since The Doors’ Jim Morrison once proclaimed himself The Lizard King, paleontologists thought adding his name as a species epithet was the perfect way to highlight the lizard’s impressive girth.

4. Kingnites diamondi

Vertebrates aren’t the only hard-rocking fossils. Danish rocker King Diamond inspired the name of Kingnites diamondi, a 420 million year old worm that grew to 20 inches and had a nasty set of piercing mouthparts.

5. The Punk Trilobites

Trilobites were relatively mild-manned invertebrates, crawling over the prehistoric seabottom and rolling up into a ball when threatened. But there is one group that has a bit more edge. All the species in trilobite genus Arcticalymene are named after the Sex PistolsA. jonesi, A. matlocki, A. cooki, A. vicious, and A. rotteni. The Ramones got their turn, too, while trilobites named Mackenziurus joeyi, M. johnnyi, M. deedeei, and M. ceejayi.

6. Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni

This 100 million year old hermit crab wasn’t known for doing the moonwalk or "Thriller" dance. Instead, paleontologists discovered the Cretaceous crustacean on the same day as they learned of Michael Jackson’s death and named it Mesoparapylocheles michaeljacksoni in honor of the deceased pop idol.

7. Amaurotoma zappa

Fossil snails are a bit of an acquired taste. They’re often small and don’t have the celebrity status of megamammals or dinosaurs. Perfect, then, that the 300 million year old snail from Nevada was dubbed Amaurotoma zappa in honor of musical underdog Frank Zappa.

8. Gagadon minimonstrum

Some paleontologists go all out with their clever names. On the basis of a fossil jaw, researchers Richard Stucky and Herbert Covert named a new, 50 million year old hoofed mammal Gagadon minimonstrum. The official paper says that the species name refers to the small and complex teeth of the mammal, but we all know that the name translates to Lady Gaga’s “Little Monster.”

9. AC/DC Millipedes

Paleontologist Gregory Edgecombe has a habit of naming fossils for his favorite musical acts. Not only did he dub the Sex Pistols and Ramones trilobites, but in a 1998 paper [PDF], he named a pair of 410 million year old millipedes after the famous AC/DC brothers Malcolm and Angus Young—Maldybulakia malcolmi and M. angusi, respectively. Imagine the on-stage histrionics if Angus had as many legs as his prehistoric namesake.

10. Jaggermeryx

This 19 million year old mammal probably didn’t have moves like Jagger, but it did have lips like him. A set of tiny holes around the jaw of Jaggermeryx, a distant cousin of today’s hippos, indicate that it probably had unusually fleshy and sensitive lips. The fossil record is as yet unclear on whether this swamp-dwelling beast could get any satisfaction.

Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics

Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands
Pop Culture
Take a Sneak Peek at the Brooklyn Museum's Upcoming David Bowie Exhibition
Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands
Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands

David Bowie was born in London, and spent his final years in New York. Which makes it fitting that an acclaimed traveling retrospective of the rocker’s career will end at the Brooklyn Museum in 2018, five years after it first kicked off at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Following a whirlwind global tour, “David Bowie is” will debut at the Brooklyn Museum on March 2, 2018, and run until July 15, 2018. Curated by the V&A, it features around 400 objects from the singer’s archives, including stage costumes, handwritten lyrics, photographs, set designs, and Bowie’s very own instruments.

Together, these items trace Bowie’s evolution as a performer, and provide new insights into “the creative process of an artist whose sustained reinventions, innovative collaborations, and bold characterizations revolutionized the way we see music, inspiring people to shape their own identities while challenging social traditions,” according to the Brooklyn Museum.

“David Bowie is” has received nearly 2 million visitors since it left the V&A in 2013. Due to its overwhelming popularity, the show is a timed ticketed exhibition, with priority access reserved for Brooklyn Museum members and certain ticket holders.

Tickets are on sale now, but you can take a sneak peek at some artifacts from "David Bowie is" below.

Photograph from the David Bowie album cover shoot for "Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph from the album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

Striped body suit worn by David Bowie during his "Aladdin Sane" tour in 1973

Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour, 1973. Design by Kansai Yamamoto 

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita © Sukita/The David Bowie Archive

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from David Bowie's album Heroes, 1977

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from Heroes, 1977

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

A 1974 Terry O'Neill photograph of musician David Bowie with William Burroughs.
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974. Photograph by Terry O'Neill with color by David Bowie.
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original photography for David Bowie's 1997 "Earthling" album cover

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997

Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3. © Frank W Ockenfels 3

Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

One of David Bowie's acoustic guitars from the “Space Oddity” era, 1969

Acoustic guitar from the Space Oddity era, 1969

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

An asymmetric knitted bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto for musician David Bowie's 1973 "Aladdin Sane" tour.

Asymmetric knitted bodysuit, 1973. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour.

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum


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