It’s a Spider, Not a Doctor, Captain or Vulcan


Category:  Fields and Streams

Via:  hallux  •  10 months ago  •  9 comments

By:   Christine Hauser - NYT

It’s a Spider, Not a Doctor, Captain or Vulcan
On their mission to seek out new life, scientists have named three new spider species Kirk, Spock and McCoy — after characters from the original “Star Trek” series.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Star Trek fans and spider enthusiasts have unexpectedly converged on a new frontier.

Scientists in Brazil announced that they had identified three new species of spiders and subsequently named them Kirk, McCoy and Spock after some of the main characters of “Star Trek.”

The trio of spiders are part of the Roddenberryus genus, a taxonomic classification named for   Gene Roddenberry , who created the 1960s science fiction television series that spawned decades of films, sequels, comics and a community of devoted Trekkies.

Mr. Roddenberry, who   died in 1991 , “inspired generations of kids to pursue scientific careers,” wrote Alexander Sánchez-Ruiz, a zoologist, and Alexandre Bragio Bonaldo   in their article in European Journal of Taxonomy , published on Sept. 6, explaining how a science fiction franchise became the basis for the spiders’ names.

The nomenclature was not entirely frivolous. Dr. Bonaldo, a researcher at the Paraense Emílio Goeldi Museum in Brazil, said in an interview that the spiders’ wide, fused heads and thoraxes, known as the cephalothorax, and long abdomen of the spiders “make them ideal candidates for names inspired by the Star Trek universe.”

“They somewhat resemble Star Trek spaceships,” Dr. Bonaldo said. “Arachnologists have a long tradition of giving interesting scientific names for new genera and species, as most of us believe it is a great opportunity to acknowledge people or draw parallels with pop culture and local customs.”

Once Dr. Bonaldo and Dr. Sánchez-Ruiz agreed to call the genus Roddenberryus, naming the three species after the main characters “became, as Spock would say, ‘only logical,’” they said. “Kirk” honors James Tiberius Kirk, the captain of the series’s spaceship, the U.S.S. Enterprise. “McCoy” was named for Dr. Leonard McCoy, the ship’s chief medical officer, and “Spock” shares a name with Kirk’s pointy-eared Vulcan First Officer.

McCoy, Spock and Kirk now belong to a family of spiders known as Caponiid, which is unique for having only two eyes instead of the more common eight, and rows of teeth, bristles, orange carapaces, pale abdomens and claws.

The spiders are found across the Americas, Africa and Asia, but they are commonly within a single location, such as on an island or in another strictly defined area. Roddenberryus Kirk is from the Guanacaste and San José provinces of Costa Rica, while Roddenberryus mccoy hails from Baja California Sur in northwest Mexico. Roddenberryus spock is found in Campeche and Quintana Roo in Mexico.

Dr. Bonaldo added that the discovery of new genus and species provided the team with material to study the evolution and diversification of their subfamily, Nopinae, “and potentially illuminate the intricate biogeographic history of Central America and the Caribbean.”

It is not unusual for arachnologists to name newly identified spiders after a celebrity, pop culture icon and now, even a fictitious human-Vulcan hybrid. The climate activist Greta Thunberg was the inspiration for spiders of the  Thunberga genus  of Madagascar in 2020. Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany,  said the spider named  after Thunberg was meant to draw attention to the threat that climate changes pose to species diversity in Madagascar and elsewhere.

In 2022, Dr. Jäger announced that he had named a genus of spiders   after the music of David Bowie , adding 54 new species including   Bowie ziggystardust,   Bowie majortom   and   Bowie heroes , the latter referring to ground-dwelling spiders from the Himalayas, Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

He said   in a statement   that he meant to “commemorate this incomparable artist who left us much too early, but what matters most to me here is the idea of conservation.”

“We only protect what we know — and an attractive name is much more likely to be remembered,” he said.

Dr. Bonaldo said that his favorite unique names include Strotarchus beepbeep , a fast-moving spider named after the  Road Runner  cartoon from the Looney Tunes series, and  Myrmecium oompaloompa , which mimics ants and can be found in cocoa plantations in the Brazilian state of Bahia.

More than 51,000 species of spiders have been identified worldwide thus far — according to the   World Spider Catalog   — representing about a third of the estimated 150,000 to 180,000 species, said Linda Rayor, a behavioral ecologist at Cornell University. Now, more than 1,000 species are identified each year, up from about 200 in 1925, she said.

“Enormous numbers of spiders are being identified constantly,” said Dr. Rayor, who is also the president of the American Arachnological Society.

“Within that context, arachnologists have a recent history of giving them cutesy names,” she said.

As voracious eaters and top predators, spiders are hugely important to the ecosystem. “To me, the identification is less exciting in and of itself,” Dr. Rayor said about the relevance of the Star Trek-themed spiders. “Far more important is conserving habitats.”


jrDiscussion - desc
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    10 months ago

The Newstalkerus recluse crawling across my screen has entered the splat 'n squish zone!

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?

Your impudence protects you sairly;

I canna say but ye strunt rarely,

Owre gauze and lace; Tho', faith!

I fear ye dine but sparely On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,

R. Burns

Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1    10 months ago

I used to have a live and let live attitude towards arachnids, until I got bit by a black widow 40 years ago, and then a brown recluse a few years after that. now the pests wait until I'm asleep to bite me, so when I'm awake, I kill every one of them that dares to expose themselves to me. this is the time of year that they like to move indoors, to certain death if I see them.

PhD Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  devangelical @1.1    10 months ago

 Too bad neither was radioactive, this joint could use a stuporhero.

Professor Principal
1.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1.1.1    10 months ago

my late uncle was a research scientist/professor at an ivy league university back east. he got bit by a radioactive rat back in the 70's and they quarantined him in the lab for a month. we jokingly referred to him as ratman for awhile.

PhD Principal
1.1.3  seeder  Hallux  replied to  devangelical @1.1.2    10 months ago

Did your aunt call him Willard?

Professor Principal
1.1.4  devangelical  replied to  Hallux @1.1.3    10 months ago

no, but I'm sure that was part of the joke repertoire between my cousins and I. he became my favorite uncle when I was a teenager after he invited a french colleague and his young wife along to our week long family reunion camping and boating vacation. she was very uninhibited when at the beach and during bath time in the lake on our camping trip. with my jaw on the ground and a glance back at my uncle in disbelief, I can still hear my uncle saying to me "eh, they're french".

PhD Principal
1.1.5  seeder  Hallux  replied to  devangelical @1.1.4    10 months ago

Is that a baguette in your pocket or are you just happy to see me mon petite brie?

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    10 months ago

What do you all have against spiders? They are our friends. Did you know tarantulas kill scorpions? Have you never enjoyed watching a wolf spider dance across your carpet? And let's not forget orb spiders. They build these beautiful webs between your house door and your car door, guaranteeing that you will walk into it.

Be grateful for what you have

PhD Principal
2.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    10 months ago

Well there are those that lure one into the throes of passion and turn the date into dinner.


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