R.E.M. star Michael Stipe has helped a top German entomologist and a research associate at Yale University name a new ant species.
Strumigenys ayersthey is named after Charles Ayers, the artist and political activist who was part of Andy Warhol’s fabled circle of friends and stars. The name uses the suffix ‘they’, rather than a gendered Latin suffix, to celebrate gender diversity.
Entomologist Phillip Hoenle discovered the ant in the rainforest in Ecuador and sent a specimen to Douglas B. Booher, a research associate in the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change and the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, to confirm if it really was a new species.
Booher then reached out Stipe, a close friend of the late Ayers, to ask for his blessing for the new name.
Ayers, a prominent songwriter, co-wrote songs for R.E.M. and the B-52’s, among others, and also performed in Stipe’s Jeremy’s Dance art piece before his death.
“His curiosity for every single person he ever met was the foundation of a fascinating and cross-cultural network of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, often with Jeremy at the very centre of several overlapping colonies,” Stipe told EurekAlert!
“He created the salon, laid the trails; he was the connector, the queen ant if you will, the bringer-togetherer (sic),” he went on.
Booher revealed he became friends with Ayers after earning his bachelor’s degree in ecology at the University of Georgia and participated in a dance video filmed in the artist’s backyard, revealing Charles had a fascination with entomology.
“He knew I loved insects and he had recently bought a book on the Chinese culture of keeping crickets for their sounds,” Booher explained. “He was also endlessly fascinated with nature… I knew Jeremy, and knew of no other human that better represented the pan and inclusive world of humans. He was also a lover of biodiversity, so it (ant species name) just seemed to fit,” he added.
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