What do you do when you have to name a brand new species? Some opt for using some defining physical feature. Others use their own name. Andre Nemesio, from the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, in Brazil, went for something a bit different: he and his team just named a brand new orchid bee Euglossa bazinga, after the catch phrase used by Sheldon Cooper on the television show “The Big Bang Theory.”
The paper describing the bee says:
The specific epithet honors the clever, funny, captivating “nerd” character Sheldon Cooper, brilliantly portrayed by the North American actor James Joseph “Jim” Parsons on the CBS TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. Sheldon Cooper’s favorite comic word “bazinga”, used by him when tricking somebody, was here chosen to represent the character. Euglossa bazinga sp. n. has tricked us for some time due to its similarity to E. ignita, what led us to use “bazinga”. Sheldon Cooper has also an asteroid named after him (246247 Sheldoncooper).
Orchid bees are a beautiful, but poorly understood type of bee, that collect all sorts of chemicals that they then use to attract females. These bees co-evolved with the plants they collect from, and the plants rely on the bees for pollination. Surprising Science covered research on that very evolution:
But a new study in Science has found that the relationship isn’t as equal as had been thought. The biologists reconstructed the complex evolutionary history of the plants and their pollinators, figuring out which bees pollinated which orchid species and analyzing the compounds collected by the bees. It seems that the orchids need the bees more than the bees need the flowers—the compounds produced by the orchids are only about 10 percent of the compounds collected by the bees. The bees collect far more of their “cologne” from other sources, such as tree resin, fungi and leaves.
Nemesio hopes that by naming the bees something recognizable, researchers can call attention to their rapidly deteriorating habitat. So far, he has described a dozen new species of orchid bees, naming two of them after Brazilian icons. He hopes that Sheldon’s catch phrase can make orchid bee research catchy as well.