After becoming President, Barack Obama had a number of species named in his honour. Donald Trump, however, has managed to do him one better, finding an animal namesake days before his inauguration in Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, a tiny moth species distinguished by its yellow, scale-covered forehead and “unique genitalia.”
According to taxonomist Vazrick Nazari, who first described the species in a paper published Tuesday, the name is intended to generate interest in North America’s “neglected micro-fauna.” Native to southern California and Baja Mexico, the moth emphasises the continued importance of conservation in even well-studied regions.
A closeup of the “yellowish-white scales” covering N. donaldtrumpi’s frons. Image: Vazrick Nazari
“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the US that still contain many undescribed species,” wrote Nazari in the study. “The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.”
As it turns out, that resemblance is also what makes N. donaldtrumpi distinct from the closely related (but relatively plain-headed) Neopalpa neonata—among, um, other attributes.
N. donaldtrumpi’s “unique genitalia.” Image: Vazrick Nazari
While the new species doesn’t show the “highly-specialised phallus” previously thought to be characteristic of the genus, the male N. donaldtrumpi’s genital “valvae are strongly curved, the saccus has an acute tip, and the highly-developed bilobed processes of the vinculum, characteristic of N. neonata, are absent,” according to the study.
As the genitalia of moths and butterflies are extremely diverse, they hold an outsized importance to taxonomists, often serving as the only means of differentiating similar species. In this case, the creature’s unique head scales are far more prominent, but that doesn’t mean N. donaldtrumpi’s weird dick isn’t also worthy of study. [Motherboard]