Tuesday, 17 January 2017

This Moth With a Golden Head and Small Genitals Was Named After Trump

President-elect Donald Trump has emblazoned his surname onto buildings, board games, vodka bottles, steak products, and a smorgasbord of other commercial ventures. Now, the Trump brand will extend to the animal kingdom with the discovery of Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, a new species of twirler moth named after the politician and real estate magnate.

This centimeter-wide moth was identified by evolutionary biologist and lepidopterist Vazrick Nazari, who announced the find in a paper published Tuesday in the open-access journal ZooKeys. Nazari settled on the name N. donaldtrumpi because the silky yellow-white scales these moths develop on their heads in adulthood reminded him of the President-elect’s signature hairdo.

Holotype and paratypes of the new species Neopalpa donaldtrumpi. Image: Vazrick Nazari

The moth is native to North America, specifically California and Baja Mexico (Trump’s proposed border wall won’t stop this flyer’s migration).

By meticulously examining specimens of the moth and its close relatives, Nazari was able to catalogue its unique anatomy, including its male genitalia, which is “comparatively smaller” than the moth’s close relative Neopalpa neonata, according to the study.

Nazari, like Trump, understands the power of good marketing, and hopes that his taxonomical homage to the incoming president will raise awareness about the need to preserve its delicate environment.

"The discovery of this distinct micro-moth in the densely populated and otherwise zoologically well-studied southern California underscores the importance of conservation of the fragile habitats that still contain undescribed and threatened species," Nazari concludes in the study.

READ MORE: The Republican Plan to Dismantle the Endangered Species Act

"By naming this species after the 45th President of the United States, I hope to bring some public attention to, and interest in, the importance of alpha-taxonomy in better understanding the neglected micro-fauna component of the North American biodiversity."

Considering that the Republican Party is already gearing up to defang the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which many conservatives have argued is inefficient for conservation, Nazari’s message is more topical than ever.

Trump is not the first commander-in-chief to lend his moniker to a new species; nine animals have been named for President Barack Obama, including an extinct lizard, an Amazonian songbird, and a Hawaiian fish.

And though Nazari is the first to officially name a species after Trump, the southern flannel moth is sometimes informally called “Donald Trump’s Hair moth” because—you guessed it—it also rocks that same unmistakable cut in its caterpillar form.

Image: CDC/Wikimedia Commons

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