Some people get parks and ships and buildings named after them.
Radiohead just became a new ant species.
You’re not daydreaming.
Ana Ješovnik and Ted R. Schultz at the Smithsonian Institution’s Ant Lab in Washington, D.C., have discovered a new ant species from the genus Sericomyrmex in the Venezuelan Amazon.
They named it Sericomyrmex radioheadi for two reasons: great music and great people who champion climate change.
The name honors the band’s “longstanding efforts in environmental activism, especially in raising climate-change awareness, and in honor of their music, which is an excellent companion during long hours at the microscope while conducting taxonomic revisions of ants,” the two wrote of their study, published Monday in the journal ZooKeys.
The band’s lead singer, Thom Yorke, a devoted vegetarian and passionate anti-fur advocate, and other members are known for their activism on behalf of the Earth and animals.
In 2015, Yorke, David Bowie, Coldplay and others in the music community led an effort urging the United Nations to commit to limiting further global warming, according to Newsweek.
At one point, trying to figure out ways to reduce his carbon footprint became an obsession, Yorke said in a 2015 interview published by French magazine Télérama.
“I mean, initially, it kept me awake at night — which sounds really stupid — especially when my second child arrived, in 2004, I got unhealthily obsessed with it,” he said. “But when I started to get involved in doing something about it, that helped me a lot. But I always have the impression that I am not doing enough at all.”
The ant that now bears the group’s name is as unique as the band itself, whose most ardent fans insist is the best band in the world.
Ants of the genus Sericomyrmex, which means “silky ants,” grow fungus gardens for food, according to Phys.org. Ješovnik and Schultz found three new species among the ones they collected across Central and South America.
Using a scanning electron microscope, the authors saw the females of the new Radiohead species were covered with an unusual, white crystal-like layer, while the males were not. The layer’s function and chemical makeup is still unclear.
“One possibility is that the layer is microbial in origin and that it has a role in protecting the ants and their gardens from parasites,” notes Phys.org.
“This is interesting, because most of the fungus-farming ants cultivate antibiotic-producing bacteria on their bodies to protect their gardens from microbial weeds. In the meantime, in Sericomyrmex these bacteria are absent, yet their gardens are also parasite-free.
“Figuring out if this crystal-like layer has a role in protecting these ants’ fungus gardens might provide clues for managing diseases in human agriculture and medicine.”
Radiohead isn’t the first musical act to find immortality in the animal kingdom.
All the Beatles had extinct sea creatures named after them. There’s a Pink Floyd pink shrimp, a David Bowie spider and an Australian horsefly with a golden booty named after Beyoncé.