Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gaga again

Graduate Student Fay-Wei Li at the moment he
discovered Gaga germanotta alive in Costa Rica.
Seems that quite a few taxonomists are fond of Lady Gaga's music. How else can one explain that her name has been used for a taxonomic description. A small parasitic wasp last time and now an entire fern genus found in Central and South America, Mexico, Arizona and Texas. As a result 19 species of ferns will carry the name Gaga. Two of the species in the Gaga genus are new to science: Gaga germanotta from Costa Rica is named to honor the family of the artist, who was born Stefani Germanotta. And a newly discovered Mexican species is being dubbed Gaga monstraparva (literally monster-little) in honor of Gaga's fans, whom she calls little monsters.

We wanted to name this genus for Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression, said study leader Kathleen Pryer from Duke University. Also in one of her performances Gaga wore a heart-shaped costume with giant shoulders that looked, according to Pryer, exactly like the bisexual reproductive stage of the ferns, called a gametophyte. It was even the right shade of light green. 

However, the clincher came when they scanned the DNA of the ferns (including the plant DNA Barcoding regions) being considered for the new genus. A quartet of base pairs characteristic for the genus spelled out GAGA. 

No matter if one likes her music or not. I give Lady Gaga a lot of credit for her Born This Way Foundation, a national anti-bullying initiative. 

Furthermore, I congratulate all those creative taxonomists for coming up with new names honoring celebrities (well maybe not always honoring). 

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