Scientists may seem like a pretty poker-faced bunch, but the botanists at Duke University, at least, have a sense of humor about their work and some pop-culture savvy to go with it. On Tuesday the university announced that it was naming a newly identified genus of ferns – and 19 species within that genus – after the pop singer and cultural provocateur Lady Gaga.
“We wanted to name this genus for Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression,” Kathleen Pryer, a professor of biology at Duke University and director of the school’s herbarium, said in a statement. “And as we started to consider it, the ferns themselves gave us more reasons why it was a good choice.”
For example, the university said in a news release, the fern, which is found in Arizona, Texas, Mexico and Central and South America, “has somewhat fluid definitions of gender,” reproducing by spores that can grow into plants that may be male, female or bisexual. It also said that a graduate student analyzing the ferns had found the sequence GAGA in its DNA base pairs. (It did not hurt that the scientists were Lady Gaga fans: “We think that her second album, ‘Born this Way,’ is enormously empowering,” Dr. Pryer said in the statement, “especially for disenfranchised people and communities like LGBT, ethnic groups, women — and scientists who study odd ferns!”)
Among the newly named fern species are Gaga germanotta (a nod to Lady Gaga’s given name, Stefani Germanotta) and Gaga monstraparva (which translates to little monster, as the singer calls her fans). There was no immediate word if the Lady Gaga ferns might tour with the Beyoncé house fly recently identified in Australia.
(content and image courtesy of artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com / Itzkoff)