During the past year CSIRO scientists have given scientific names to 165 new species, including tributes to Marvel characters Deadpool, Thor, Loki, and Black Widow along the way.
Paying homage to another name creator, they also named a fly after Stan Lee, the comic book creator who named the Marvel characters.
CSIRO entomologist Dr Bryan Lessard, who himself goes by superhero name ‘Bry the Fly Guy’ on social media, said naming new species is an important super-power in solving many of the world’s challenges.
“Deadpool fly is an assassin with markings on its back that resembles Deadpool’s mask,” Dr Lessard said.
“We chose the name Humorolethalis sergius. It sounds like lethal humour and is derived from the Latin words humorosus, meaning wet or moist, and lethalis meaning dead.”
CSIRO bee and wasp expert Dr Juanita Rodriguez said naming new species has a fun side but is also vital science for our everyday lives – understanding differences between species can help save their lives and our own.
“We discovered a new species of spider wasp that is only found in an area badly impacted by bushfires this summer, so now we can carefully monitor its recovery,” Dr Rodriguez said.
“Spider wasps have venom that could be useful for treating Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, but most Australian spider wasp species are unknown to science.”
The five flies with Marvel universe names are:
- Stan Lee’s fly is Daptolestes leei and shares his characteristic sunglasses and white moustache
- Thor’s fly is Daptolestes bronteflavus, meaning blond thunder
- Loki’s fly is Daptolestes illusiolautus, meaning elegant deception
- Black Widow’s fly is Daptolestes feminategus, meaning woman wearing leather
- Deadpool’s fly is Humorolethalis sergius, from the Latin for wet or moist, and dead, and shares his mask markings.
CSIRO scientists also named:
- 151 new insects
- Eight new plants, including two species of Lobelia from Queensland, one vulnerable and one endangered
- Two new fish, the Smallfin Eucla Cod and Roberts Eucla Cod, collected several decades ago and stored at the Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart. Previously only one species of Eucla cod was known to exist.
- One new mite that lives on a lizard
- Three new subspecies of bird, including the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and two Rufous Grasswren subspecies.
Dr Lessard said with only a quarter of Australian insects known to science, the more species are named, the better we can understand their super powers.
“We named two new species of colourful soldier flies from recently burned national parks. These species are found nowhere else in the world,” Dr Lessard said.
“Soldier flies have an important role in nature as nutrient recyclers. Losing such species could have knock-on effects in ecosystems and food chains.
“We are interested in identifying new insect species that might be useful pollinators, nutrient recyclers or the next food source to support the agricultural sector.”
CSIRO partners named another 25 species of marine invertebrates collected from the abyssal depths off the eastern coast of Australia while onboard the CSIRO Research Vessel (RV) Investigator, including two species named after the ship, a carnivorous sponges named Cladorhiza investigator and a polychaete worm named Petta investigatoris.
CSIRO thanks the many research partners involved in collaborative projects to describe and name Australia’s biodiversity.