First Species Named After Trump Is a Moth With Blond 'Hair'
The endangered insect's "hair" is actually a tuft of yellow scales and the moth is also unique for its peculiar genitalia.
The first official living species to be named after the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is an endangered small moth with a unique tuft of yellow scales on its head.
The newly documented moth, Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, is described in the journal ZooKeys. It is the second moth associated with Trump, as the southern flannel moth in its caterpillar stage was dubbed the "Donald Trump's Hair moth," but that moniker was just a nickname.
As for why moths so often seem to sport Trump-like "hair-do's," author Vazrick Nazari of the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes explained to Seeker: "Moths are the second largest group of insects (after beetles) and among the most diverse animals. They are geologically very old, and through millions of years of evolution they have acquired the most amazing life cycles, adaptations and characteristics."
He was not surprised to see a Trump-resembling 'do on the new moth.
"What the function of these scales are, we are not sure," he said. "Perhaps they play a role in flight or thermoregulation."
Genetic analysis and comparison with other moths enabled the determination that the recently discovered insect represent a new species. The male's "genitalia (are) comparatively smaller" than those seen in another closely related moth. One such part, known as the vinculum posterior margin, is described as being "weakly developed."
Just seven individuals are known of this new tiny moth, so it is already highly endangered. N. donaldtrumpi flies in dune habitats in Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Its host plant(s) for its larval and earlier life stages remain a mystery, but appear to be in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, tobacco and also some toxic species.
Nazari said that the moth's dune habitats are under constant pressure from human activity, and especially dune-buggy enthusiasts. In naming the new moth after Trump, Nazari wishes to improve conservation of such landscapes.
"I hope to bring some public attention to the importance of conservation of the fragile habitats in the United States," he said, adding that the dune regions are "under imminent danger of destruction. The incoming administration should make every effort to continue preserving these important ecosystems that still contain undiscovered and undescribed species."
Note that the new moth is the first living species to be officially named after Trump. In November of last year, a fossil sea urchin, Tetragramma donaldtrumpi, was also named after the President-Elect. That urchin, however, lived during the Lower Cretaceous around 110 million years ago, and is long gone, aside from its fossilized remains.
Unlike the moths, the inch-long sea urchin did not resemble Trump, but instead looked like "a lifesaver candy," according to fossil collector William Thompson of Texas who documented it.