Study lead author Derek Henin is a self-proclaimed Swifty who wanted to honor the singer. He was a PhD candidate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg at the time of the research.
“Her music has put me through hard times,” Henin said, “and this is the kind of heartfelt thank you that I can give for the joy that her music has brought me.”
Hennen found the Appalachian millipede in Fall Creek Falls State Park in Spencer, Tennessee, the same state that Swift moved to as a teenager to pursue her singing career.
If Swift hears about the label, Hennen hopes she’ll be happy and use it as an opportunity to learn more about the Millennium.
“For a scientist, naming a species after someone is an honor, so I hope you look at it favorably,” he said.
It’s a “beautiful” millipede, Henin said, with a chestnut-brown color and reddish-orange spots on its sides.
Paul Marek, assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology and official doctoral candidate Jackson Maines at Virginia Tech, traveled with Henin across 17 states from 2015 to 2019 and found 17 new millennial species.
“It’s funny because when I started, it was like, ‘Wow! New type! But after we’ve had two years, it’s like, “We have another new type of millipede, tossed in the heap,” Henin said.
Millworms are one of the lesser known creatures, he said, because they are not as flashy as butterflies or dragonflies, which is why so many new species are being discovered.
These insects prefer wild habitats and are important in the nutrient cycling process, Henin said. He explained that millipedes act as a “leaf recycler,” eating dead plants and defecate, thus fertilizing the soil.
Another special millipede
Swift isn’t the only person who named Henin after discovering the millipede. Henin named another new species of Nannaria marianae, also known as the maple twisted-claw millipede, after his wife, Marianne.
On their walk together, his wife waited patiently while Henin searched for millipedes, which happens at nearly every outing, he said.
“She was by my side the whole time while I was working on my PhD. She gave me so much love and support, and this is my way of showing her my love and support for her,” Henin said.
Hall of Fame
Other famous people have named an animal or plant after them.
- Drag Queen RuPaul has a rainbow-colored fly, Opaluma RuPaulhis name is after him.
- A bee fly found in Australia is named after Paramonovius NightAfter the King of the Night in Game of Thrones.
- Leonardo DiCaprio had a tree, Ovariopsis DicaprioIt was named after him for his conservation efforts.
- Australian scientists have named a number of new species after Marvel characters, including Thor. The scientific name for the species of flies is Daptolestes bronteflavuswith the second word translating to “blond thunder”.
- Many other animals are named after famous people such as Dolly Parton and Lady Gaga. Parton had a lichen named Japewiella dollypartoniana and Gaga had a whole plant genus named monstraparva, also known by the DNA sequence name, GAGA.
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