Researchers have discovered a rare new trifle-jawed ant in the tropical jungles of Ecuador, South America. The new insect has been named Strumigenys ayersthey after worker and artist Jeremy Ayers, who died in 2016.
Really unique among the genus of ants, which has 850 species and to celebrate its uniqueness its inventors decided to honor Ayers and “celebrate both scientific and human diversity”, perhaps the only species on earth with a scientific name the suffix “they”. The newly described species was first identified in 2018 by Philip Hoenle from the Technical University of Darmstadt in the Reserve Río Canandé, which is owned and cared for by the Jocotoco NGO.
As described in the journal ZooKeys, it is distinct for its smooth and glossy cuticle surface and spontaneously long trap-jaw debris, making it stand out even in its crowded genus. The fact that they could not find any more specimens implies that it is rare. Whale reached out to Douglas Booher, a technology expert at Yale University, to confirm whether what he found was a new species. Bohr not only confirmed the new invention but also proposed a name with a twist: its Latin name would celebrate gender diversity.
Animal species are often named after humans. Due to the gender nature of the Latin language, if the species is named after a human, it usually gets the masculine suffix “-i”, such as Platysaurus Attenborough after the naturalist David Attenborough. If it is named after a woman, it gets the suffix “-e”, for example, Aptostichus angelinajolieae Jolie after actor Angelina Jolie, who kept a spider for her work at the UN High Commission for Refugees. This dualistic view of gender is prevalent in several (but not all) languages and cultures across the Asian peninsula of Europe. Although Latin nouns do not have a neuter (both) substitute, it has never been used for living animals (except for the term scortum, which refers to sex workers of any sex).
Curiously Mind Steep, the lead musician and lyricist of REM, is involved in naming the new ants. Boyer and Stipe, both personal friends of Ayers – who were part of Andy Warhol’s factory, wrote B52’s hit song “52 Girls” and used the dragon Sylva Thin – opted for “on” Anglicism. Booher said in a statement, “Such a beautiful and rare animal was a species to celebrate both biodiversity and human diversity.” “Small changes in language have had a huge impact on culture. Language is dynamic and so should the naming species change – it’s a fundamental language of science.”