And the category is… endangered invertebrates!
A newly-discovered species of Australian soldier fly has officially been named after the world’s most famous drag personality, RuPaul.
Opaluma rupaul, as the fly will henceforth be known in the scientific literature, is a tiny little queen covered in an iridescent rainbow exoskeleton that makes it look like a “little gem buzzing around the forest floor,” according to Dr. Bryan Lessard, a postdoctoral fellow at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
Lessard discovered the species as part of his research into fly evolution and was so struck by its beauty that he named it after one of the most resplendently dressed people on the planet.
“I was watching a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race while examining the species and I know it would challenge RuPaul on the runway serving fierce looks,” he told The Guardian. It’s pretty on-the-nose to name a rainbow bug after a gay icon, but when has RuPaul herself ever given a damn about subtlety?
This isn’t the first time the good doctor has named an insect after a celebrity — and he’s got a good reason for doing it. Back in 2011, Lessard named a species of horsefly after Beyoncé, which might sound like some shade, until you remember that flies are actually vital members of the animal kingdom who are often overlooked as pollinators.
This time around, Lessard is hoping to draw media attention to the threats Opaluma rupaul is facing. As CNN reported, our little rainbow-hued friend and 12 other fly species recently discovered by Lessard were severely harmed by the Australian brush fires of 2019-2020 and their aftermath.
“There’s a new wave of entomologists using pop culture to generate interest in our science,” Lessard told The Guardian. By getting people to pay attention to insects through eye-catching names, he’s hoping to shine a light on the less photogenic — but no less imperiled — members of the animal kingdom who are affected by climate change.
“These species would have burnt and no one would have cared if I hadn’t given them a name,” Lessard told CNN.
But that’s not all Lessard is hoping to accomplish with his high-profile naming antics. He also wants to help make science a welcoming place for a new generation of queer nerds.
“As a gay scientist, it took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin in a very traditional field of science — in entomology,” Lessard told CNN. “I think it’s really important for the next generation of LGBTQ+ scientists to know that they’re being represented in the workplace, as we give the names of legends in the community to memorable species.”
There’s been no comment from the RuPaul camp yet about the queen’s newest namesake, but we think Ru should be flattered. After all, with all those compound eyes, Opaluma rupaul might be the only one who can watch every Drag Race spinoff show at once. Now when will we see her on All-Stars?!
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