Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Spider Named For Neil Young

Illustration for article titled Spider Named For Neil Young

Screw the Grammys, this is the kind of award every musician should hope for: Neil Young has had a spider named in his honor. East Carolina University biologist Jason Bond, who discovered a previously unknown species of trapdoor spider in 2007, chose the scientific designation Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi in honor of the Canadian singer.

"There are rather strict rules about how you name new species," Bond said. "As long as these rules are followed you can give a new species just about any name you please. With regards to Neil Young, I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice."

The complete paper describing the spider, co-written by Bond and American Museum of Natural History curator Norman I. Platnick, can be found here.

Based on what The A.V. Club has been able to determine from news reports about the spider, the connection between Young and the arachnid is tenuous at best beyond the name itself. For one thing, according to this livescience.com story, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi is a "sit-and-wait predator [that] hangs out behind its camouflaged trap door, waiting for a passerby. When it senses the vibrations of a nearby insect, the spider pops open the silken flap and drags the prey into its burrow." When Neil Young is hungry, he probably just orders a pizza. When he does order a pizza, he almost certainly eats the pizza rather than paralyzing the delivery guy with a venomous bite from his deadly fangs, then dragging him into his underground lair where he slowly sucks the juices from his victim—that would actually be the spider's preferred method.

Also, in order to establish Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi as a new species, the scientists reportedly had to make a careful study of its genitalia, which is apparently the only way to tell many species of spider apart from each other. No such study of Young's genitalia has been reported in any news story we've seen, nor does it seem likely that such a study will prove necessary.

Young now joins a select pantheon of famous people with insects and other vermin named after them. (It's a list more extensive than you might think.) Earlier this year, the late Roy Orbison was honored with his very own species of whirligig beetle, Orectochilus orbisonorum. Beetles are also named for Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Harrison Ford has both a spider and an ant to his name. Each member of both the Sex Pistols and the Ramones have their own trilobite. And Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson has Strigiphilus garylarsoni, a biting louse found on owls.

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