25 July 2012
Ten species step out of obscurity as the 2012 Name a species competition winners are announced.
Emerging from obscurity, ten previously unnamed British species are now enjoying some long-awaited limelight as the results of the competition to give them popular names were announced today (Wednesday 25 July). The overall winner was the ‘cutpurse wasp’, hitherto known only as Aporus unicolor – a wasp that breaks into the burrow of the purse web spider, paralyses it and uses the still-living body as a host for its own eggs.
Other winners included the solar-powered sea slug, corrugated scarab and semaphore fly, previously known as Elysia viridis, Brindalus porcicollis and Poecilobothrus nobilatus respectively. It’s hoped that their more memorable (and easier to pronounce) new names will find them places in the popular imagination alongside species such as the kingfisher, dormouse and bee orchid.
Thousands of people submitted entries to this year’s Name a species competition, which again invited the public to give popular names to ten British species that have until now only had scientific names. The entries were judged by our panel: Dr Peter Brotherton, Natural England’s Head of Profession for Biodiversity; Dr Keith Hiscock, Associate Fellow at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth; George Monbiot, author and Guardian columnist; and Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.
Matt Shardlow said: “Each of these animals is a small miracle, from the solar-powered sea slug that adopts bits of the plants it eats so it can turn the sun’s energy into food, to the cutpurse wasp with her skilled assassination of purse-web spiders in their underground lairs. People should be on first name terms with these little beauties, and now they can be”.
George Monbiot said: “We looked for names which were both functional and delightful, and I hope people will agree that we found some great examples. Ten more species now have memorable and evocative names, which, I hope, will mean that they are more likely to be valued and protected.”
The ten winning names announced today are:
Royal flush sea slug (Akera bullata): Sea slug that escapes by flapping and exuding purple ink.
Cutpurse wasp (Aporus unicolor): A spider-hunting wasp
Corrugated scarab (Brindalus porcicollis): A shiny grooved scarab
Spiny mudlark (Brissopsis lyrifera): Spiny urchin in the mud
Solar-powered sea slug (Elysia viridis): Photosynthesising sea slug
Elusive knapweed bee (Halictus eurygnathus): A lost bee of the South Downs
Clockface anemone (Peachia cylindrica): 12-tentacled lurker in the sand
Wannabee fly (Pocota personata): Hoverfly disguised as a bumblebee
Semaphore fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus): A glittering green fly which waves its white tips to attract mates
Crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini): A parasitic barnacle that takes over its crab host
Keith Hiscock added: "The winners have suggested names that help to 'tell a story' about the biology or appearance of a species which will, hopefully, be memorable and informative to those who enjoy peering into rockpools or peeping under boulders on the seashore or who get into the water snorkelling or diving."
This is the third year of the competition, which was originally inspired by Natural England’s Lost Life - a report that showed that nearly 500 species have become extinct in England in the last 200 years – and the subsequent call by George Monbiot for a competition to enable the public to become more familiar with the species that we are in danger of losing. Today’s ten new species names were selected from thousands of entries by the judges.
Peter Brotherton concluded: “Species extinctions don’t just happen in rainforests, they also occur in the UK. These losses matter and often involve species that are unknown and unloved. This competition attracted entries from thousands of people of all ages, showing the real interest that exists in all of England’s wildlife, from sea slugs to spiders. These species have new names that resonate and delight, giving me real hope that they will become better known and have a bright future.”
For further information, contact Lyndon Marquis, email@example.com, 0300 060 4236. Out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer on 07970 098005
The winning entries were submitted by:
Royal flush sea slug (Akera bullata): Sally Patricia Garland
Cutpurse wasp (Aporus unicolor): (overall winner)
Corrugated scarab (Brindalus porcicollis):
Spiny mudlark (Brissopsis lyrifera):
Solar-powered sea slug (Elysia viridis):
Elusive knapweed bee (Halictus eurygnathus):
Clockface anemone (Peachia cylindrica):
Wannabee fly (Pocota personata): (overall runner up) Deborah O’Hara
Semaphore fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus): Alan Thomson
Crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini): Prakash Shah
Note: Due to the large number of entries received via the Guardian blog, the names and addresses of some winners are still being confirmed.
Veiled dancer sea slug (Akera bullata):
Starmap sea slug (Elysia viridis): Ida Brooke Taylor
Bumblefly (Pocota personata):
St Patrick’s Day fly (Poecilobothrus nobilatus)
Ceasefire fly (Poecilobothrus nobilatus)
Captain Haddock’s nightmare (Sacculina carcina)
Royal flush sea slug (Akera bullata): This sea slug feeds on sea grass during the summer and sediment through the rest of the year. When disturbed, it uses the fleshy protrusions you can see wrapped around its body to swim away – it can also squirt out a purple coloured fluid from its glands.
Cutpurse wasp (Aporus unicolor): A specialised wasp with only one known prey, the purse web spider. The female wasp uses her specialised enlarged foreleg to break into to the spider's underground tubular web. She paralyses the spider with her sting and lays her egg there. The larva feeds on the still-living spider.
Corrugated scarab (Brindalus porcicollis): A member of the scarab family – the group that includes dung beetles and chafers. This beetle favours sandy habitats and in particular coastal sand dunes. In the British population, it is thought that the adults breed in spring, with the larvae spending the summer underground. They emerge as adults in July or August and are believed to go into hibernation in September.
Spiny mudlark (Brissopsis lyrifera): Like other urchins, this species relies on its “test” for defence. The test is series of skeletal plates (or petals) joined to form a complete shell. This urchin’s test is formed from five petals and covered in coarse, mobile spines. Heart urchins are burrowing animals – this is the only species of heart urchin likely to be found in muddy sediments.
Solar-powered sea slug (Elysia viridis): This species is commonly vivid green, and occasionally bright red or brown. It feeds on seaweed and takes its colour from the seaweed’s photosynthesising cells (chloroplasts). The chloroplasts are retained unharmed in its body, where they continue to photosynthesise – the sugars they produce supplement the sea slug’s diet.
Elusive knapweed bee (Halictus eurygnathus): This species of solitary bee, was, until recently, thought to have been extinct in the UK since 1946. However, a recent study has found individuals at seven sites in the chalk grassland where, it seems the main requirement of the bee is an abundance of greater knapweed as a pollen source.
Clockface anemone (Peachia cylindrica): Members of this genus don’t attach themselves to rocks as most anemones do – they burrow. At its base this species has slender column, which it buries in the sand; the column has rounded end that acts as an anchor. Its tentacles seize passing prey, which they transfer to the central mouth.
Wannabee fly (Pocota personata): Hoverflies don’t have stings, instead relying on their resemblance to bees and wasp for defence. This hoverfly takes the deception a stage further and looks exactly like a bumblebee – it even flies like a bumblebee. They are extremely hard to spot, but can sometimes be seen visiting hawthorn flowers and around rot holes high in trees. Their eggs are laid in these holes and it’s thought the larvae take several years to develop.
Semaphore fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus): The male has conspicuous white wing tips. The male performs a courtship display where the conspicuously-marked wings are solemnly raised and lowered, a bit like an airport marshaller guiding a plane to a parking spot with a pair of batons. Wingspan is directly related to body size, so the better (or bigger) the display, the healthier the male!
Crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini): A female larva of this species attaches itself to a crab and grows branching routes through the unfortunate host. She is produces a mass of eggs below the crab’s abdomens (this is what’s shown in the picture), which are fertilised by male larvae (the males have no adult stage). The host crab is prevented from moulting by the parasite and so eventually is encrusted with other animals. The parasite also feminises male crabs. The crab (male or female) cares for the parasite’s eggs as if they were its own.