Blood-sucking crustacean named after Bob Marley

Reggae musician Bob Marley has joined Barack Obama and Elvis Presley in the elite club of those who have biological species named in their honour.

| Updated on: Jul 11 2012, 12:02 IST

Bob Marley, the late popular Jamaican singer and guitarist, now has a biological species that has been named after him.

Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University, discovered and just named after Marley a 'gnathiid isopod', which is a small parasitic crustacean blood feeder that infests certain fish that inhabit the coral reefs of the shallow eastern Caribbean.

Sikkel named the species Gnathia marleyi.

'I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music. Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley,' Sikkel said.

Gnathia marleyi is a new species within the gnathiid family and the first new species to be described in the Caribbean in more than two decades.

By concealing themselves within coral rubble, sea sponge or algae, juvenile Gnathia marleyi are able to launch surprise attacks on fish and then infest them.

Sikkel explained that adult gnathiids do not feed at all.

'We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced,' he said.

Sikkel initially discovered Gnathia marleyi about 10 years ago in the US Virgin Islands where it is so common that he had assumed for years that the species had previously been described.

Nevertheless, compelled by a hunch, Sikkel ultimately sent a specimen of the species to Nico J Smit of North-West University in South Africa, a member of Sikkel's research team, who confirmed that the species had, in fact, previously been overlooked by taxonomists.

With the help of Whitney Sears, one of Sikkel's students, the research team raised the isopod from its juvenile stage through adulthood, a laborious task that was necessary because most taxonomy descriptions of gnathiids are based on adult males, which usually differ in appearance and other ways from juvenile gnathiids.

Other famous figures who have biological species named after them include Barack Obama, who has lichen, Comedian Stephen Colbert, who has a beetle, Elvis Presley, who has a wasp, and Bill Gates, who has flower fly.

All of the life stages of Gnathia marleyi have been published in Zootaxia.

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First Published Date: 11 Jul, 10:21 IST
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