In 2013, Edward Snowden became a household name when the former government contractor and CIA employee leaked tens of thousands of classified intelligence files that he copied from the National Security Agency (NSA). Many called Snowden an American hero, and many others called him a traitor. One man who falls into the category of the former is Christian Lukhaup, a research associate at Humbold University in Berlin.
To honor Snowden — who he called “an American freedom fighter” in a recent paper — Lukhaup has decided to name a newly discovered species of crayfish after the NSA leaker.
“The new species is named after the american freedom fighter Edward Joseph Snowden. He is honored due to of his extraordinary achievements in defense of justice, and freedom. The name is used as a noun in apposition.”
The Edward Snowden crayfish — officially named Cherax snowden — was first discovered by Lukhaup in 2006 when he retrieved a specimen from a collector in Kepala Burung in the province of West Papua, Indonesia. That Cherax snowden remained the only one Lukhaup would be able to get his hands on until earlier this year when he and other researchers obtained some specimens from an online store in Germany that sold freshwater invertebrates, and more from a wholesale distributor in Indonesia.
With more than one single specimen on hand, researchers were finally able to extract DNA from Cherax snowden to prove that it was, in fact, an as of yet undescribed species of crayfish.
To name a new species, researchers must follow the genus-species construction, as put forth by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature guidelines, and as long as those guidelines are followed, those who “describe” a new species to the scientific world have the freedom to name their species as they see fit. Lukhaup — who’s no stranger to describing new species to science, having just discovered and named another new species of crayfish in May of this year — explained to the Washington Post the reasoning behind naming his newest discovery after Edward Snowden.
“After describing a couple new species, I thought about naming one after Edward Snowden because he really impressed me. We have so many species named after other famous people who probably don’t do so much for humanity. I wanted to show support for Edward Snowden. I think what he did is something very special.”
He also described what he believed were symbolic similarities between Cherax snowden and the human Edward Snowden.
“A crayfish is a powerful species; it’s protected by a very hard shell, plus it has two very effective chelae, the pincers, and even if they are tiny, [they] can hurt a lot. A crayfish lives under a rock. It has to hide from his enemies and he comes out in the night and he hunts, and he is protected by a shell.”
How do you feel about Edward Snowden having his very own species of crayfish named after him? Does he deserve this honor? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image Credit: Christian Lukhaup]