In late August 2016, US President Barack Obama expanded the territory of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. A coral expanse that’s about twice the size of Texas, Papahānaumokuākea is the largest area of government-protected land or water on Earth. It is home to millions of seabirds, endangered turtles and monk seals, and 7,000 other species. For the Hawaiian-born President, expanding the protected area of this region was the least he could do for his home state.
In return, marine biologist Richard Pyle named the fish pictured above after Obama.
It doesn’t have an official name yet, but it is significant in that it is the only fish known to exist only in the Papahānaumokuākea region. The male features a distinct coloration on its dorsal fin, which reminded Pyle of Obama’s campaign logo.
“It’s very reminiscent of Obama’s [campaign] logo,” Pyle says. “How appropriate that a fish we were thinking about naming after him anyway, just to say thank you for expanding the national monument, happens to have a feature that ties it to the president.
This isn’t the first time a new species has been named after President Obama, and some of these species aren’t as glamorous as a colorful fish.
One such example is the Paragordius obamai, which is a parasitic hairworm that originates in Kenya. This particular hairworm infects crickets, and interestingly, reproduces without a male.
Ben Hanelt, who named the cricket-parasite, says he was worried about naming “a gay parasite” after Obama (which might be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard a scientist say). Hanelt says it’s no insult though, regardless of how grotesque the species may be.
“[Having a species named after you] is one of the biggest honors,” he explained. “The weirder it is, the more outlier a species it is, the better. It’s a way for your name to last forever.”
(Photo courtesy of National Geographic)