© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

That's 'Gnathia Marleyi' To You: Scientist Names New Species After Bob Marley

Male gnathiids.
Ann Marie Coile
Arkansas State University
Male gnathiids.

We're not quite sure what to make of it. Is it an honor? Is it an insult?

Either way, a biologist and a fan of Bob Marley has decided to name a new species in honor of the Jamaican singer.

"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," Paul Sikkel, assistant professor of biology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University, said in a press release.

Also, Gnathia marleyi is the first new species described in the Caribbean in more than two decades.

But ... and you were expecting a but ... here are some of the characteristics of the species described in the latest issue of the journal Zootaxia.

-- Gnathia marleyi is a parasite.

-- Juveniles hide in coral rubble, sea sponge or algae and sneak up on unsuspecting fish to infest them.

-- Adults can live without feeding for two or three weeks before dying.

-- They are blood suckers, "ecologically similar to land-based ... ticks or disease-carrying mosquitoes," Sikkel says.

-- In its press release Arkansas State explains, "About 80 percent of all organisms found on coral reefs are parasites. The gnathiid isopods are among the most ecologically important of them, according to biologists, because many diseases afflicting desirable fish are either caused by, or are transmitted by gnathiids."

-- So the Gnathia marleyi might have something to do with the demise of some coral.

All that said, would Marley be proud to be associated with that creature? Marley was of course famous for preaching unconditional love. "Love would never leave us alone," he sang famously on Could You Be Loved.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.