Barack Obama is officially now a parasite (it’s an honor)

President Barack Obama talks about the war on terrorism and efforts to degrade and destroy the Islamic State group, during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s no Nobel Peace Prize, but Barack Obama has a new honor to brag about. Scientists have named a parasite after him — and there’s no worming out of it.

Meet Baracktrema obamai, a tiny parasitic flatworm that lives in turtles’ blood. A new study officially names the 2-inch, hair-thin creature after Obama.

Thomas Platt, the newly retired biology professor at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana who chose the name, says it’s an honor, not an insult. Really.

Platt, who discovered and named the flatworm to crown his career before retiring, has more than 30 new species to his credit. In the past, he’s named them after his father-in-law, his doctorate adviser “and other people I have a great deal of respect for. This is clearly something in my small way done to honor our president,” Platt said Thursday.

Platt, who is a distant relative of the president, says people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a species named after them.

Parasites, which live in and get nutrients from host animals, get a bad rap. Platt says this one reminds him of the president: “It’s long. It’s thin. And it’s cool as hell.”

Platt says Baracktrema obamai “are phenomenally incredibly resilient organisms.”

“I hold them in awe and with phenomenal respect,” Platt says.

The worm is related, distantly, to a parasite that can cause a devastating disease in humans, but it causes no harm to turtles, Platt says.

Parasites are cool, crucial to life and all around us, says Rutgers biologist Michael Sukhedo, editor of theJournal of Parasitology, where the study appears. About 7 out of 10 animals on Earth are parasites, he says.

Naming a new species — especially in the final paper of a career — “is a big decision,” Sukhedo says.

Obama already has a spider, a fish and even an extinct lizard named after him.

Although names are usually bestowed as an honor, Sukhedo admits once or twice parasites have been named as a tool of revenge — something Platt says isn’t the case here. One time, Sukhedo says, a biologist named an entire group of parasites after her ex-husband: microphallus.

WDTN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s