Slime-mold Beetles Named for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld

Drawing of a slime-mold beetle of the genus Agathidium closely related to new species named for President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Image credit: Cornell University, Frances Fawcett.)

Namesakes of the U.S. President and two of his key people might be crawling around your back yard as you read this.

Three new beetles of the genus Agathidium have been named after members of the current administration: A. bushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi.

Two former Cornell University entomologists, Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller, were in charge of naming 65 new species of slime-mold beetles, which they discovered while studying the insects' evolution and classification.

Wheeler, who is now head of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London, said that the choice to name beetles after President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was out of admiration for their principles, not because they look like the beetles.

None of these beetles make their home inside the Beltway.

Wheeler said Agathidium bushi has been found in southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia; Agathidium cheneyi inhabits Chiapas, Mexico; and Agathidium rumsfeldi is known from Oaxaca and Hidalgo in Mexico.

The slime-mold beetles are so-called because they feed on fungi-like molds.

Some of the other recently identified specimens were named after the entomologists' wives and their scientific illustrator, as well as Pocahontas, Hernan Cortez, and the Aztecs.

Most of the rest of the names are derived from various geographic locations or distinguishing features. One of the beetles was called A. vaderi because of its shiny, Darth-Vader-like head.

Scientists are allowed to name the species they discovery. According to rules established by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the species name must end in "i" if it comes from a person.

The rather long scientific names also includes the names of those who first described the species.

The new names are reported in a monograph in the March 24, 2005, issue of the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History.

Michael Schirber
Michael Schirber began writing for LiveScience in 2004 when both he and the site were just getting started. He's covered a wide range of topics for LiveScience from the origin of life to the physics of Nascar driving, and he authored a long series of articles about environmental technology. Over the years, he has also written for Science, Physics World, andNew Scientist. More details on his website.