There is perhaps no one more experienced in the art of the mixed tribute than Taylor Swift. Her iconic breakup songs pay homage, of a sort, but in ways that their muses might hesitate to identify with. It seems fitting, then, that a newly identified species of millipede, Nannaria swiftae, was named for the singer in a beautiful gesture that is also a little creepy — or at the very least, crawly.
The twisted-claw millipede, a Tennessee native, is one of 17 new species identified in a research paper that reviewed some 1,800 insect specimens from field studies as well as university and museum collections. Derek Hennen, an entomologist at Virginia Tech, spent five years studying this subset of insect life in Tennessee, along with Jackson C. Means and Paul E. Marek, co-authors of the paper.
“Her music helped me get through the highs and lows of graduate school, so naming a new millipede species after her is my way of saying thanks,” said Hennen in a tweet.
Hennen also named another new species, Nannaria marianae, after his wife — surely to avoid the kind of jealousy common among pop stars and the spouses of myriapodologists alike. Species within the Nannaria wilsoni group love the moist valleys of the Appalachians, and they don’t stray outside of the mountains, according to Hennen.
“It meant I got to explore some beautiful rhododendron groves and similar habitats,” Hennan tweeted. Though their subjects were hard to find, with the publishing of this paper, the research team increased the number of species in the genus to 78, up from a mere 23 before their work on the genus. (Or as Swift might say, they never painted by the numbers, baby, but they’re making it count.)
As fan tributes go, this rates above asking for an autograph on the creepiness scale, and below creating a shrine in your closet. Nonetheless, the research team’s dedication deserves its accolades. As for any amateur entomologists who may happen to encounter Nannaria swiftae crawling on them in the future, just stay calm and shake it off, shake it off!
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