The new species share characteristics with Marvel superheroes and villains.
Of the 165 species named in 2019 by scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), five new insects have made headlines for being named after Marvel characters.
Known on social media by the codename Bry the Fly Guy, entomologist Bryan Lessard decided to use his superpower to characterize species to honor some beloved characters, such as Thor, Loki, Black Widow, and Deadpool, as well as the person behind the publisher’s success, Stan Lee.
With its apparent white “mustache” and black eyes like sunglasses, scientists thought that Daptolestes leei is reminiscent of Stan Lee.
Another newly discovered fly is Humorolethalis sergius, which has markings on its back similar to Deadpool’s mask.
“We chose the name Humorolethalis sergius because it sounds like lethal humour and is derived from the Latin words humorosus, meaning wet or moist, and lethalis meaning dead,” said Dr. Juanita Rodriguez, a wasp expert at CSIRO.
Other named species were Daptolestes bronteflavus (named after Thor, its name translates to “blond thunder”), Daptolestes illusiolautus (from Latin, “elegant deception”, reference to Loki) and Daptolestes feminategus (named after Black Widow, translates to “woman wearing leather”).
According to Lessard, only a quarter of Australian insects are known to science, and the more species are found, the better scientists are able to understand the abilities of these arthropods and their role in the balance of the ecosystem.
“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,” Lessard said.
For Rodriguez, the discovery of new species can also be a way to save lives. “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,” she 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 article on the new species was published in July in the Austral Entomology.