Why a newly discovered crustacean is named after Elton John

A new crustacean uncovered in the reefs of Indonesia has been named in the music legend's honor. Welcome to the circle of life, l. eltonis

(Dr. James Thomas)
Leucothoe eltoni, a new crustacean species, from Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

It’s happened to President Obama, Angelina Jolie, Shakira, and countless other celebrities.

As a new crustacean is announced to the world, one scientist hopes Elton John will be able to “feel the love” and join this cluster of stars so elite they even have creatures named in their honor.

The small shrimp-like creature, uncovered in the reefs of Indonesia and Hawaii, has been crowned “L. eltoni,” said Dr. James Thomas, the professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida who led a team from the Naturalis Natural History museum in the Netherlands.

Results from the study were published this week in the journal ZooKeys.

Thomas said he came up with the name from being a longtime fan of the music legend. “I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career,” he said in a statement. "So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard [in the movie ‘Tommy’] came to mind."

The link between the crustaceans found in Indonesia and that in Hawaii wasn’t made until later, said Thomas. Because it was unlikely to be found in the Aloha State, researchers consider it to be an invasive species, possibly “as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that was attached to a large floating drydock transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines.”

Other studies by Thomas in the Philippines “have shown this new species is also found there,” according to the statement.

Currently, the effect of these creatures competing with native species is still unknown, reported Discovery News. But “such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments,” said Thomas.

L. etoni is in good company. Scientists who discover new species – known in the scientific community as taxonomists – are allowed the privilege of picking their names, and the practice of celebrating their favorite musicians is more common than one might expect.

For example, once crawling the forests of Southeast Asia was a now-extinct reptile named for The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison, and the Caribbean coral reefs are home to a parasite honoring Bob Marley.

Welcome to the circle of life, little eltonis. 

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