Lady Gaga has received the dubious honor of having a newly discovered parasitic wasp named after her.
Pop music’s leading diva has been immortalized by researchers at the University of Thailand who have named a recently discovered parasitoid wasp Aleiodes gaga in honor of the singer, reports Wonderwall. Why they would name the wasp after Lady Gaga? We don’t exactly know, but i09 opines that the researchers are just “seeking attention — in which case the name is wholly appropriate.”
The Gaga species of wasp was just one of 178 others in the first ever “turbo-taxonomic study” based on a new DNA coding technique called “COI barcoding.” In the new process, scientists use a fragment of the mitochondrial COI gene to dramatically increase the time it takes to identify and prove the existence of a new species. With some thousands of samples already discovered in tropical locales, the COI barcoding technique is proving to be “revolutionary.”
Still, Lady Gaga’s name might not stick with the parasitic wasp, as some researchers have expressed reservation over the accuracy of the new technique. According to biologist Quentin Wheeler, naming a new species based merely on “the nucleic acids at particular bases” just isn’t enough.
“The aim of describing species is to recognize, describe and name the results of evolution,” he writes at The Guardian, “not to proliferate the number of names in reference to ephemeral shifts in gene frequencies or, in this case, in nucleic acids.”
Wheeler contends that “arbitrary measures of genetic distances as an inferior substitute for explicitly testable theories of species based on unique combinations of complex characters,” though he does see importance of turbo-taxonomy to the field. He just thinks that it doesn’t excuse thorough investigation. Still, he does say that turbo-taxonomy and COI barcoding are here to stay, so if the parasitic wasp is indeed a new species, Lady Gaga’s namesake is likely to stay with it, though we’d still like to know exactly why.