New animal species are sometimes named after celebrities because of their trademark looks. That's how we got the blonde-haired Donald Trump moth and the big-armed Arnold Schwarzenegger fly, to name a few. However, some well-known people are enshrined in animal names not for their looks, but rather for what they do for the environment.
This is exactly how a newly discovered water beetle, described in the open access journal ZooKeys, was given the name of Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. The tribute marks the 20th anniversary of the celebrity's Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) and its efforts towards biodiversity preservation.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has become one of the world's foremost wildlife charities, having contributed to over 200 grassroots projects around the globe devoted to climate change mitigation, wildlife conservation, and habitat preservation.
"We can all have an impact," says DiCaprio in a special LDF video, "but we have to work together to protect our only home."
Going by the scientific name of Grouvellinus leonardodicaprioi, the new water beetle was discovered at a waterfall in the remote Maliau Basin, Malaysian Borneo, during the first field trip initiated by Taxon Expeditions - an organisation which arranges scientific surveys for untrained laypeople with the aim to discover previously unknown species and bridge the gap in biodiversity knowledge.
Having identified a total of three water beetle species new to science, the expedition participants and the local staff of the Maliau Basin Studies Centre voted to name one of them after DiCaprio in honour of his efforts to protect untouched, unexplored wildernesses just like Maliau Basin itself.
"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 Njunjic.
Freitag H, Pangantihon CV, Njunjic I (2018) Three new species of Grouvellinus Champion, 1923 from Maliau Basin, Sabah, Borneo, discovered by citizen scientists during the first Taxon Expedition (Insecta, Coleoptera, Elmidae). ZooKeys 754: 1-21. https:/
About Taxon Expeditions:
Founded in 2017 and based in Leiden, The Netherlands, Taxon Expeditions is an organization which focuses on education and biodiversity discovery. It organizes expeditions to remote areas for people interested in nature and science and help them make scientific discoveries. International experts are engaged to guide them through all steps of real scientific research. Together, they discover, name, and publish completely new species of wild animals.
With only 20% of the world's species estimated to be currently known despite the last 250 years spent in research conducted by professionals, the mission of Taxon Expeditions is to harness the power of citizen science for biodiversity discovery and its conservation.
About Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation:
In 1998, Leonardo DiCaprio established his foundation with the mission of protecting the world's last wild places. LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth's inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our day through grantmaking, public campaigns and media initiatives.
The Foundation has gradually built a significant grantmaking operation, awarding over $80 million in grants since 2010, funding 200+ high-impact projects in 50 countries across Asia, the Americas, Africa, the Arctic, Antarctica, and all five oceans. Through active collaboration with a broad network of environmental leaders and experts, effective organizations, and committed philanthropists, the foundation is able to find and support the best, results-driven projects in the world's most wild and threatened ecosystems. Its work is divided into six main program areas - Wildlands Conservation, Oceans Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Transforming California, and Innovative Solutions.