Friday, November 30, 2012

Spawned in the USA: new fish named after Barack Obama

He already had the presidential seal. Now comes the presidential fish. Researchers have named a newly discovered species of freshwater fish after Barack Obama, making him only one of four presidents to have newly discovered species of fish named after them for their green credentials.

The honour may not have quite the heft of the Nobel peace prize that Obama picked up at the start of his first term. And it doesn't convey the sheer raw power that goes with riding in Air Force One. But it does put the Obama brand on an all-American fish, and it also puts him in good company.

The researchers named the five newly discovered species of the darter – the smallest member of the perch family – after four presidents and one vice-president. All but one are Democrats, like Obama.

The darter, which packs a lot of colour into its fairly diminutive dimensions – males are mostly under 50mm in length – spends its life in the fast-moving freshwater rivers and creeks that are the veins of America.

It gets it name from its ability to get around rocks and other obstacles on the bottom of waterways. Most darters live in the creeks of northern Alabama and eastern Tennessee, not typically hospitable terrain for Democrats. None of them currently warrant protected status.

The researchers, Steve Layman from Geosyntec Consultants in Georgia and Rick Mayden from Saint Louis University, came across the first new species in the Duck and Buffalo rivers of the Tennessee river drainage, according to Scientific American's Running Ponies blog.

Etheostoma Obama, is a relatively skinny orange and blue speckled fish topped by a brilliant fan-shaped fin, with bold orange stripes. Males grow up to 48mm long. The scientists told Scientific American they wanted to honour Obama's environmental leadership.

"We chose President Obama for his environmental leadership, particularly in the areas of clean energy and environmental protection, and because he is one of our first leaders to approach conservation and environmental protection from a more global vision," Layman said. Other honourees were also chosen for their environmental credentials: Teddy Roosevelt for setting aside vast areas of wilderness for national monuments and parks; Jimmy Carter, for his energy policy and humanitarian work in his post-presidential career; Bill Clinton, for wilderness preservation; and Al Gore, the sole vice-president on the list, both for his environmental work and his status as a Tennessee native, like the darter.

Source: The Guardian

Photo courtesy of jamesomalley via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)