July 11, 2012

Bob Marley Has Parasite Named In His Honor

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

There is a lichen named for President Obama and Elvis has a wasp species named after him. Now the world of celebrity species naming can add a parasitic blood-feeding crustacean to the list with Gnathia marleyi, named after reggae icon Bob Marley, reports Deborah Zabarenko for Reuters.

“I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley´s music,” Paul Sikkel, a marine biologist at Arkansas State University, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as Marley.”

Juvenile Gnathia marleyi hide among coral rubble, sea sponges or algae, launching attacks on passing fish, which they then infest, feeding on just enough blood to fuel their growth to adulthood. Adults don´t eat at all, Sikkel said, but manage to survive for two to three weeks on their last feedings as juveniles.

Caribbean coral reefs are vulnerable to diseases, and Sikkel said his team is studying the relationship between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations.

Gnathiids are the most common external parasites found on coral reefs. They are ecologically similar to land-based, blood-sucking ticks or disease-carrying mosquitoes, the biologist said.

Sikkel and his research team described all the life stages of Gnathia marleyi in the current edition of the journal Zootaxia. The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.