New Crustacean species named after Elton John

Researchers have discovered a small piggybacking coral reef crustacean species in Indonesia and have named it after the well-known English composer and singer Sir Elton John.

Dr James Thomas associated with the  Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, along with his partner  from Naturalis Natural History Museum in the Netherlands were exploring the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia when they came across a crustacean living inside another reef invertebrate in a commensal association. A commensal association can be described as an association that is neither beneficial nor harmful to either participant.

The amphipod’s unusual form provoked Thomas to name the creature as L eltoni after the great English singer and composer Sir Elton John. Thomas listened to the singer’s song in his lab all through his entire scientific career.

Explaining why he thought of naming the crustacean after the great singer, Thomas said that the greatly enlarged appendage under his microscope reminded him of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard.

Researchers and taxonomists who study and name new species are given the liberty to pick names that are relevant to places, features of animals, or people who they admire. In a strange twist, L eltoni has been reported in the Hawaii water as an invasive species.

Dr James Thomas was called by scientists at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to help identify an unusual amphipod they had collected. The amphipod proved to be the same species –L eltoni. It probably was introduced in the Hawaii waters as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that could have attached to some vessel from The Philippines.

With the rapid increase in ocean-going vessels, there is every possibility of marine animals to get transported from one ecosystem into another. The effects caused by such intrusions where they can compete with native species are not known. Scientists from the Bishop Museum had collated a baseline of species over the years, and the invasive species was quickly identified.