The graduate student who named a new species of bug after Lady Gaga deserves a round of "Applause." The creature dubbed Kaikaia gaga is a new species of treehopper — a group of insects that rival the pop star's famed sense of style with their "wacky" appearance, according to a press release on Tuesday. 

"If there is going to be a Lady Gaga bug, it's going to be a treehopper, because they've got these crazy horns, they have this wacky fashion sense about them," said Brendan Morris, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who named the insect."They're unlike anything you've ever seen before."

Morris, who studies entomology, named the species after the pop diva in an attempt to highlight treehoppers. The creatures are "morphological wonders," with "bizarre protuberances" that can resemble anything from horns to dead plant leaves. To communicate, the insects sing to one another by vibrating plant stems, according to the release from the university.

"I love outrageous forms and colors," said Morris. "It blows my mind that a group that is roughly 40 million years old has so much diversity of form — diversity, I would argue, that we don't see in any other family of insects."

 

 

Kaikaia gaga also represents a new genus of treehopper, Morris and his coauthor, entomologist Christopher Dietrich said in the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa. 

The Kaikaia gaga was first found nearly 30 years ago with other treehoppers in a tropical forest in Nicaragua. The specimen, which is female, is one of approximately 1,000 bugs the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh loaned to Morris for his research. 

The specimen has features that appeared different from the other treehoppers collected. Morris observed that its leg hairs, as well as other characteristics, differed from other treehoppers he had seen.

"Also, the frontoclypeus, which is kind of like the face, was shaped totally different," Morris said. "And the genitalia looked more like treehoppers from the Caribbean or this Old-World group, Beaufortianini." 

He plans to travel to the same Nicaraguan forest where the Kaikaia gaga was found to attempt to locate a living Kaikaia gaga.

Lady Gaga is far from the first public figure to have inspired the name of a new species. A small species of beetle is named after teen activist Greta Thunberg, Steve Irwin inspired the name for a blood parasite found in koalas and a species of coral-dwelling fish is named after former President Obama, among many others.
Celebrity species20 PHOTOS

First published on March 10, 2020 / 6:30 PM

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