People who discover new species have the right to name them, and some of them are so peculiar they make the news. Such is the case of the ‘hitchhiking’ coral reef crustacean that is scientifically named “L. eltoni” after the popular English singer and composer Sir Elton John.
Discovered at the Naturalis Natural History Museum in the Netherlands, the crustacean from Raja Ampat, Indonesia was first noticed by Dr. James Thomas of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida.
He and his co-researchers saw a rather strange crustacean making a decent living inside an invertebrate reef, bringing it no harm or benefit. A day after collection, when he brough it back into his lab and analyzed it under the microscope, Dr. Thomas had already decided on a name: L. eltoni.
When asked why, the doctor said that he “named the species in honor of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career.” Additionally, he thought for some reason of Sir Elton John’s shoes, the ones he wore as the Pinball Wizard, when analyzing the crustacean.
No matter how strange that sounds, it was his right as the person to discover the species. Other researchers turn to the location where the new species was found, to animal features, or famous public figures that the discoverer admires.
However, what’s more interesting is that this very species was reported to be very invasive in Hawaiian waters. In trying to understand how the crustacean reached Hawaii from Indonesia, Dr. Thomas remembered an unusual amphipod that he was called to identify by scientists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu several years ago.
Connecting the dots, he concluded that it was the same species as the one from Indonesia, and that hitchhiking inside a host sponge was most likely how it was introduced in Hawaiian waters. It could have been enough for the host to become attached to a floating drydock and then transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines.
The invasive character of L. eltoni is easily explained by the fact that marine animals may display radically different behavior when presented with a new environment, especially when it arrives in ecosystems where they have to compete with native species.
Image Source: Jonathan Rosenbaum
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