Meet Baracktrema obamai, a tiny parasitic flatworm that lives in turtles’ blood. A new study officially names the 2-inch, hair-thin creature after Obama.
Thomas Platt, the newly retired biology professor at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana who chose the name, says it’s an honour, not an insult. Really.
Platt, who discovered and named the flatworm to crown his career before retiring, has more than 30 new species to his credit. In the past, he’s named them after his father-in-law, his doctorate adviser “and other people I have a great deal of respect for. This is clearly something in my small way done to honour our president,” Platt said Thursday.
Platt, who is a distant relative of the president, says people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a species named after them.
Parasites, which live in and get nutrients from host animals, get a bad rap. Platt says this one reminds him of the president: “It’s long. It’s thin. And it’s cool as hell.”
Obama already has a spider, a fish and even an extinct lizard named after him.
Although names are usually bestowed as an honour, Sukhedo admits once or twice parasites have been named as a tool of revenge — something Platt says isn’t the case here. One time, Sukhedo says, a biologist named an entire group of parasites after her ex-husband: microphallus.