Marine parasite named after Bob Marley

ARKANSAS, USA, Friday July 13, 2012 – Beyoncé is the namesake of a horsefly with a golden rear end; President George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Beatles all have beetles named after them; President Obama has a California lichen named in his honour and comedian Stephen Colbert has two insects named after him.

Now it’s reggae legend Bob Marley’s turn.

The Jamaican music icon has had his name attached to a blood-sucking parasite that infests fish living on coral reefs in Jamaica.

The naming is not meant to be a sign of disrespect, according to marine biologist Paul Sikkel of Arkansas State University, who coined the name Gnathia marleyi to honour Marley.

“I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley’s music,” Sikkel said. “Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean, as was Marley.”

The new species belongs to a family of parasites called gnathiids, which are ocean-based equivalents of blood-sucking ticks and disease-carrying mosquitoes. They live throughout the ocean and are the most important food source for fish that eat them off the skin of other fish.

Sikkel and his colleagues have been studying the ecological effects of commercial fishing and degradation of coral reefs and had previously observed G. marleyi throughout the region. They assumed the species had already been characterized and classified, but on a hunch Sikkel sent specimens to Nico J. Smit of North-West University in South Africa.

Sikkel, Smit and their colleagues subsequently reported in the journal Zootaxia that the parasite had never been named and conferred the honour on Marley.

Juvenile gnathiids hide within coral rubble or algae so they can launch surprise attacks on fish and infest them. When adult, they stop feeding and live for two to three weeks attempting to reproduce. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)