South American Stink Bug Named after J. R. R. Tolkien’s Nazgûl
By Eduardo Faúndez
For several years in the systematic entomology laboratory at North Dakota State University, we have been working on the systematics of the South American stink bug genus Acledra.
Species of this genus have a variety of “good” and “bad” attributes. For example, some species are capable of changing color according to the season to match the leaves of the trees. There are also species in this group that are pests of different crops and are quarantined in the U.S.
One day when we realized that we had a new species, we got the opportunity to have some fun by choosing a deserving cool name. Thus Acledra (Acledra) nazgul Faundez, Rider & Carvajal is the name of this new stink bug from the highlands of Argentina, which we described recently in the journal Arquivos Entomolóxicos.
The immediate question about this is, “Why Nazgûl?”
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendarium, Nazgûl are the nine men who succumbed to Sauron’s power and attained near-immortality as wraiths — servants bound to the power of the One Ring and completely under the dominion of Sauron.
The Nazgûl appeared mounted on hideous flying beasts, descending from the highlands. Therefore, our stink bug, which flies in the Argentinian highlands, seems to be a deserving recipient of this name.
By the way, this is not the only special name related to the genus Acledra. The genus itself, described by the French entomologist Victor Antoine Signoret in 1864, is an anagram. Signoret described several genera, like Acledra, Clerada, Dalcera, Racelda, Eldarca, Erlacda, etc. Each one is an anagram that uses the letters C, L, D, R, E, and two A’s.
However, Signoret never revealed what the original word for these anagrams was, so it remains a mystery to this day. This shows us that even in the mid-1800s, people were already having fun naming new taxa, and it will probably remain a trend as long as one can imagine.
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Eduardo I. Faúndez is a PhD student at North Dakota State University in the laboratory of David A. Rider in Fargo, ND, and he is the director of the Medical Zoology Department at Centro de Estudios en Biodiversidad in Chile. His major research areas are systematics of the Heteroptera and medical zoology.