New Rainbow Fly Species Named After RuPaul and Honestly, Why Not?
Shantay you stay, Opaluma RuPaul!
Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has named a new species of rainbow fly after queer icon and Drag Race host RuPaul. The Opaluma rupaul is part of the new Australian genus Opaluma—from the Latin words for opal and thorn, to reflect the iridescent colors of flies in this group and the distinctive thorn on the underside of their abdomens.
Category is: new species extravaganza! Introducing the @RuPaul soldier fly, serving charisma and uniqueness, one of 150 new species named by @CSIRO in the last year! #csirocollections https://t.co/CMRbUODVqN pic.twitter.com/TCPNFGYUDo
— Dr Bryan Lessard (@BrytheFlyGuy) September 14, 2021
Bryan Lessard, an entomologist with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, called the name an “obvious decision,” saying “I was watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race while examining the species and I know it would challenge RuPaul on the runway serving fierce looks.” Lessard added, “It has a costume of shiny metallic rainbow colours, and it has legs for days. I think once (Ru) sees the fly she’ll realise it’s quite fierce and hopefully appreciate the name.”
“As a gay scientist, it took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin in a very traditional field of science ― in entomology,” Lessard told CNN. “I think it’s really important for the next generation of LGBTQ+ scientists to know that they’re being represented in the workplace, as we give the names of legends in the community to memorable species.”
The catchy name not only celebrates the gay icon, but brings attention to species currently under threat from climate change. “Many of the thirteen new soldier flies I named are from areas impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, … Two of these, Opaluma opulens and Antissella puprasina, have now been recognised as endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and are known only from Lamington National Park in Queensland, an area that was significantly burned in the bushfires.” This is not the first time Lessard has used names inspired by pop culture, having named the Beyoncé fly (Scaptia beyonceae) in 2011.
More newly named insects include three beetles named after Pokémon Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres: Binburrum articuno, Binburrum zapdos, and Binburrum moltres. And a new cycad-boring weevil was named after the fictional insectoid Digmon in the Japanese anime TV series Digimon Adventure, who possesses the power of drilling and manipulating earth, like the weevil can bore into hard trunks of cycads: Demyrsus digmon.
The anime-inspired names came courtesy of PhD candidate Yun Hsiao. “He’s a massive Pokémon fan,” said Lessard. “Pokémon inspired him to become an entomologist, and he noticed three beetles were really hard to find in remote areas of Australia, kind of like these really rare legendary Pokémon.”
“There’s a new wave of entomologists using pop culture to generate interest in our science and what we do, which is really exciting,” Lessard continued. “It’s a great way of generating attention about why flies are important, to get as many people as possible talking about these species that need help, so they can be protected.”
Lessard also noted that in the aftermath of the horrific bushfires, most turned their attention to cute and popular animals like koalas and kangaroos, while ignoring invertebrates and other animals critical to the ecosystem. Lessard called the insects “essential workers” in the ecosystem and emphasized the importance of studying them.
RuPaul hasn’t commented on the moniker, but did tweet the following:
‘Rainbow colors & legs for days’: Australian fly species named after RuPaul @BrytheFlyGuy https://t.co/PeP026BLTh pic.twitter.com/nMfRwrDRRl
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) September 15, 2021
A rainbow fly that promotes queers in science? We have just one thing to say to Opaluma rupaul:
(via The Guardian, image: CSIRO/VH1)
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