Citizen scientists have named a newly discovered species of water beetle after Leonardo DiCaprio in recognition of the Hollywood actor’s support of environmental causes.
Grouvellinus leonardodicaprioi was discovered during an expedition to a remote tract of rainforest in Sabah’s Maliau Basin, in the heart of Malaysian Borneo. The trip was organized by Taxon Expeditions, which sets up field surveys for budding citizen scientists.
“Tiny and black, this new beetle may not win any Oscars for charisma, but in biodiversity conservation, every creature counts,” said Taxon Expeditions’ founder and entomologist Dr. Iva Njunjić, in a press release.
Maliau is one of the three areas that make up the Danum Valley – Maliau Basin – Imbak Canyon (DaMaI) complex of wildlife-rich forests. Dicaprio’s foundation recently moved to support conservation efforts in DaMaI via a grant to Global Conservation, a California-based non-profit that is working with local rangers and the Sabah state government to implement technologies to protect wildlife and forests. DaMaI is home to endangered orangutans, pygmy elephants, and clouded leopards.
Naming a newly discovered species after a notable person is a popular trend in taxonomy. For example, Dicaprio already has a “smiley-faced” spider named after him. And last year, scientists made headlines when they named a moth after Donald Trump. Neopalpa donaldtrumpi is noted for its shock of blonde hair-like scales and small genitalia.
Some scientists and conservation groups are using species-naming to raise funds for conservation.