There are a lot of geeky types in science-related fields. Heck, some of our favorite fantasy and science fiction authors are scientists, themselves: David Brin holds a PhD in applied physics. Ekaterina Sedia has a PhD in ecology and evolution. There are many, many others.
Sometimes I wish that there were secret handshakes that you could use to identify other people into nerdy hobbies, but until then, we can count on academics to “out” themselves in their daily work. There’s a jellyfish with a name that pays homage to popular television series The Big Bang Theory. There’s a dinosaur named for Harry Potter’s Hogwart. Then there’s the hermit crab named for Star Trek’s Lieutenant Worf.
The latest animal with a geeky name to join the horde of sci fi and fantasy critters is Tritonia khaleesi, a newly discovered seal slug named for A Song of Ice and Fire’s Khaleesi and would-be ruler of Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen. The slug, technically a nudibranch, was discovered off the coast of Brazil by scientists Felipe de Vasconcelos Silva, Victor Manuel de Azevedo, and Helena Matthews-Cascon.
It might not seem like a compliment to name a sea slug after a princess, but the critter in question has long silver strands on its back, which reminded one of the scientists of the Khaleesi. It is also one of the smallest of the sea slugs.
Scientist de Vasconcelos Silva explained the name in an interview with Brazilian publication Papelpop, which was helpfully translated by Macy Añonuevo of TMA News:
“The strand of silver on the back of the slug is reminiscent of Khaleesi’s braids of silver hair, especially in the last episode of the first season of (HBO’s Game of Thrones). Besides its silver color, the species is one of the smallest sea slugs, just as Khaleesi is described (in the books) as small and juvenile.”
Nudibranchs (that’s the plural, apparently) are known for their gorgeous colors, and eat algae, coral and other foods. They didn’t evolve shells, and depend on a other tactics for protection. One of them is what makes them beautiful. Scientists theorize that their bright patterns and colors warn potential predators that the nudibranchs are poisonous or unpleasant to eat, and to that effect, some nudibranchs are truly toxic and can kill small animals that consume them. Other nudibranchs have venomous appendages known as cerata. What’s amazing is where the creatures actually get their sting ability. Venomous nudibranchs that feed on hydrozoa (jellyfish) eat their stingers and store them in their cetera.
Beautiful but small, dangerous to touch and a problem to conquer… Forget the dragons. Maybe Daenerys should have a sea slug as her house symbol.
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