Washington: Lady Gaga is being honoured with the name of a new genus of ferns found in Central and South America, Mexico, Arizona and Texas.
A genus is a group of closely related species - in this case 19 species of ferns will carry the name Gaga.
At one stage of its life, the new genus Gaga has somewhat fluid definitions of gender and bears a striking resemblance to one of Gaga’s famous costumes. Members of the new genus also bear a distinct DNA sequence spelling GAGA.
Two of the species in the Gaga genus are new to science - Gaga germanotta from Costa Rica is named to honour the family of the artist, who was born Stefani Germanotta.
A newly discovered Mexican species is being dubbed Gaga monstraparva in honour of Gaga’s fans, whom she calls “little monsters.”
“We wanted to name this genus for Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression,” study leader Kathleen Pryer from Duke University said.
“And as we started to consider it, the ferns themselves gave us more reasons why it was a good choice,” Pryer said.
For example, in her performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards, Lady Gaga wore a heart-shaped Armani Prive’ costume with giant shoulders that looked, to Pryer’s trained eyes, exactly like the bisexual reproductive stage of the ferns, called a gametophyte.
It was even the right shade of light green. The way the fern extends its new leaves in a clenched little ball also reminds Pryer of Gaga’s claw-like “paws up” salute to her fans.
The clincher came when graduate student Fay-Wei Li scanned the DNA of the ferns being considered for the new genus. He found GAGA spelled out in the DNA base pairs as a signature that distinguishes this group of ferns from all others.
Celebrity species abound in science as there is a California lichen named for President Barack Obama and a meat-eating jungle plant named after actress Helen Mirren.
In January, an Australian horse fly described by its discoverer as “bootylicious” was named for singer Beyonce but those are just individual species.
This is an entire genus that so far includes 19 species of ferns.
Except for the two new species, germanotta and monstraparva, the rest of the Gaga ferns are species that are being reclassified by Pryer and her co-authors.
They had previously been assigned to the genus Cheilanthes based on their outward appearance. But Li’s painstaking analysis of DNA using more than 80 museum specimens and newly collected plants showed they’re distinct and deserving of their own genus.