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Celebrity species: from the DiCaprio water beetle to Obama spiders | Technology

Celebrity species: from the DiCaprio water beetle to Obama spiders | Technology

Leonardo DiCaprio

A new species of water beetle, discovered by scientists in Borneo, has been named after the Oscar-winning star of The Revenant. With its partially retractable head and slightly protruding eyes, Grouvellinus leonardodicaprioi was not named for its resemblance to the 43-year-old actor and environmentalist but because the scientists “wanted to highlight that even the smallest creature is important”.

Captia beyonceae. Photograph: Bryan Lessard/CSIRO


“It was the unique dense golden hairs on the fly’s abdomen that led me to name this fly in honour of the performer,” said Australian scientist Bryan Lessard upon the naming of Scaptia beyonceae, a rare species of horse fly found in Queensland. Australia’s science agency CSIRO contacted Beyoncé but, unsurprisingly, never heard back.

John Cleese and a woolly lemur.

Mad about Madagascar: John Cleese and a woolly lemur.

John Cleese

The Monty Python actor, on the other hand, was thrilled to have a woolly lemur named after him by a team of scientists from Zurich University in 2005. “I’m absurdly fond of the little creatures,” said Cleese, who made a documentary about lemurs in Madagascar in 1998, and now lives on there in name at least in the Bemaraha woolly lemur (Avahi cleesei).

Barack Obama receives a photograph of the Tosanoides obama reef fish from ocean explorer Sylvia Earle last year.

Scales for the chief: Barack Obama receives a photograph of the Tosanoides obama reef fish from ocean explorer Sylvia Earle last year. Photograph: Brian Skerry/National Geographic

Barack Obama

A dozen species have been named after the 44th US president, including a species of lichen, two spiders, a Cuban bee, an extinct lizard and – most picturesque of all – a coral reef fish that goes by the name Tosanoides obama and can be found swimming around the Papahānaumokuākea marine national monument in Obama’s native Hawaii.

Agra katewinsletae.

Agra katewinsletae. Photograph: Karolyn Darrow/Courtesy of National Museum of Natural History

Kate Winslet

DiCaprio’s co-star in Titanic has also had a beetle named after her, though some 11,000 miles of ocean divides the two species. Agra katewinsletae was discovered in Costa Rica by entomologist Terry Erwin, who explained: “Her character did not go down with the ship, but we will not be able to say the same for this elegant canopy species if all the rainforest is converted to pastures.”

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The Chipping Norton challenge for driverless cars | Brief letters | Technology

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I am pleased that nurseries are considering the impact of materials they use in creative activities (A green guide to glitter alternatives, G2, 20 November). The staff of the nursery school where I was headteacher for 10 years would be appalled at the suggestion that edible material such as cereals or pulses could be used as an alternative. We thought that allowing children to play with food that would be lifesaving for children suffering from malnutrition was a reinforcement of the superior attitudes that prevail in much of society.
Elizabeth Martin
Bexleyheath, Kent

The chancellor says the introduction of driverless cars will be very challenging (Driverless cars in four years’ time, 24 November) and those who drive for a living will need retraining. The challenge will be to train the driverless delivery van bringing my parcels when I’m out to proceed up the drive, squeeze up a 2ft-wide path, turn left to the side garage door and leave the goods on the bench. Oh, and to be careful reversing out.
Margaret Bruce
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

I couldn’t agree more with Kate Phillips (Letters, 24 November). For us townies who don’t often get to experience the full impact of rural life, a summertime car trip across the British countryside gives a shocking measure of the change of insect population, on our windscreens. Ten to 15 years ago I had to stop a couple of times on a three-hour journey to clean the windscreen just to see out. This year not a single insect over the same distance. No wonder there are hardly any spiders and birds left. Perhaps it was all my fault!
Paul Huxley

I live in Guildford, Surrey. Admittedly we’ve seen hardly any wasps and only had a few damselflies this year but we see plenty of small birds. For the last few days we’ve had a black cap feeding on the remaining apples; coal tits, long-tailed tits, great tits and of course blue tits on our feeders. Our record for goldfinches at once is 16 – the most common bird we get. The icing on the cake yesterday was a bullfinch.
Linda Kendall
Guildford, Surrey

There might be insects missing in other parts of Britain, but in May this year the fruit flies invaded my kitchen and, regardless of any kind of attack upon them, they stayed until about two weeks ago.
Stuart Waterworth
Tavistock, Devon

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