Duke scientists name genus of ferns for Lady Gaga

A genus of ferns with 19 known species has been given the name Gaga by botanists at Duke University (where I used to work, for what that’s worth, and they never named anything after me), according to a Duke news item.

It turns out that the fern’s DNA has a distinctive subsequence that spells GAGA. In addition, the sexually reproductive phase of the ferns looks remarkably like a costume Lady Gaga wore for the 2010 Grammy Awards (see the YouTube video of her performance), and young leaves of at least one species of the fern adopt a position that looks a lot like the “claw” salute used among Lady Gaga fans.

One species has been given the name Gaga germanotta after the singer (and child musical prodigy’s) original name, Stefani Germanotta. Another species is Gaga monstraparva, meaning “little monsters,” which is what Gaga calls her fans. The scientists said they wanted to honor Gaga for her support for individual rights. (UPDATE: According to the January 12 issue of Science News, “Both fern species probably arose when ancestors mated outside their own species.” But I’m sure they don’t mean to imply anything…)

According to the Duke news article, “Celebrity species abound in science. There’s a California lichen named for President Barack Obama and a meat-eating jungle plant named for actress Helen Mirren. In January, an Australian horse fly described by its discoverer as ‘bootylicious’ was named for singer Beyonce.”

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