Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Garden’s director Tim Entwisle with an image of the red seaweed named after him. Photo: Penny StephensA feathery red seaweed so rare that there are less than a dozen known specimens has been named after Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens’ director Tim Entwisle.
The newly described seaweed, a type of alga, has been named Entwisleia bella in tribute to Professor Entwisle, a world expert in freshwater algae. It is found growing only on submerged rocks in a Derwent River estuary, south of Hobart, and only in summer.
The chance find by University of Tasmania marine biologist Fiona Scott is significant, as the extremely rare seaweed also represents the first known member of a new algal order, Entwisleiales, which has also been named in Professor Entwisle’s honour.
”To find a new order is very, very unusual and they had to do complex DNA work to confirm that it was distinct,” he said. ”Finding this alga is like finding the first primate or spider.”
The new species, to be outlined in the European Journal of Phycology in November, could yet provide clues to how freshwater algae evolved, as about 5 per cent of red algae is found in fresh water and the rest live in salt water.
Melbourne University botanist Gerry Kraft, a co-author of the paper, named the specimen after his former student. ”Tim is a world expert in this whole suite of algae that are only found in freshwater … so we used to joke that we would find him one that grew in the sea,” Professor Kraft said.
At first the delicate seaweed stumped the biologists, who thought the seaweed was a saltwater version of the freshwater group of algae known as Batrachospermales, which Professor Entwisle dedicated his career to researching.
Even to the trained eye, the fine, feathery seaweed looks remarkably similar to red algae found in freshwater streams and lakes worldwide. However, DNA sequencing conducted in Canada over four years confirmed Entwisleia bella was distinct.
”This is something which is brand new, it is undescribed and hits all taxonomic levels,” Professor Kraft said. ”That’s virtually unique. I can’t think of somebody finding a new species that is unique all the way up to the order in recent memory.”
Professor Entwisle joins a sizeable list of politicians, musicians and actors who have had organisms named after them.
John Cleese, who hosted a documentary on lemurs and played a lemur-happy zookeeper in the film Fierce Creatures, has a woolly lemur native to Madagascar named Avahi cleesei in his honour.Organisms named after famous people
Arnold SchwarzeneggerAgra schwarzeneggeri, a species of carabid beetle.
Adolf HitlerAnophthalmus hitleri, a species blind cave beetle only found in Slovenia.
Arthur Conan DoyleArthurdactylus conandoylei, a large reptilian pterosaurs found in jungle similar to where The Lost World was set.
Nelson MandelaAnelosimus nelsoni, a species of spider only found in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
The Sex PistolsA family of trilobites called Arcticalymene includes species named after each of the Sex Pistols: Arcticalymene cooki (Paul Cook), Arcticalymene jonesi (Steve Jones), Arcticalymene matlocki (Glen Matlock), Arcticalymene rotteni (Johnny Rotten) and Arcticalymene viciousi (Sid Vicious).
John CleeseAvahi cleesei, a woolly lemur native to Madagascar.
Charlie ChaplinCampsicnemus charliechaplini, a fly which dies with its midlegs in a bandy-legged position.
Mick JaggerAegrotocatellus jaggeri, an early type of anthropod from the trilobite group.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald RumsfeldAgathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi are all beetles.
Liv TylerAgra liv, a species of carabid beetle.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.