In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, researchers announced they have named a newly discovered prehistoric lizard “Obamadon gracilis” in honor of the 44th president’s “toothy grin.”
The Obamadon gracilis, a small, insect-eating lizard, was named by scientists from Yale and Harvard universities. They combined the Latin “Obamadon” — “Obama’s teeth” — with “gracilis,” which means “slender.”
“The lizard has these very tall, straight teeth and Obama has these tall, straight incisors and a great smile,” said Nick Longrich, a paleontologist at the school in New Haven, Connecticut.
Longrich said he waited until after the recent US election to name the lizard. In an interview, he noted, “It would look like we were kicking him when he’s down if he lost and we named this extinct lizard after him.”
Obama is not the first politician whose name has been used to classify organisms. An extinct species of plant-eating ground sloth was named “Megalonyxx jeffersonii,” in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, an amateur paleontologist who studied the mammal.
Five newly identified species of freshwater perch have recently been dubbed Obama, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Presidents aren’t the only ones with the honor of having species named after them. A small Caribbean crustacean has been named after Bob Marley, an Australian horsefly has been named in honor of hip-hop star Beyonce, and an endangered species of marsh rabbit has been named after Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.
The small, insect-eating lizard named for Obama was first discovered in eastern Montana in 1974, but a recent re-examination showed the fossil had been wrongly classified as a Leptochamops denticulatus and was in fact a new species, researchers stated.
What animal would you choose to name after the president?