Newly Identified Snail-feeding Fish Named after President Obama


Biologists working with the American Museum of Natural History recently honored President Barack Obama by naming a small fish after him and First Lady Michelle Obama. Officially designated as Teleogramma obamaorum in a study published in April, this African cichlid has only been spotted in a small region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is perhaps best known for its love of snails.

“The authors named this fish in honour of U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, ‘in recognition of their commitment to science education, development, gender equality, and self-reliance for all peoples of African nations, and their dedication to environmental conservation in Africa and beyond,’” stated the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, which is set to receive specimens of the newly discovered fish for its collection.

The deepwater molluskivore was first discovered in 2011 in the Congo River by biologist Elizabeth Alter, who co-authored the study along with fellow researcher Melanie Stiassny. While this fish may not be the first animal named after the Obamas, it may be among the least attractive. Other species named after the 44th President of the United States include a species of colorful darters, an Amazonian puffbird, and an extinct lizard now called the Obamadon. The president’s named has also been applied to less savory lifeforms, such as a parasitic worm, a species of trapdoor spiders, and strangely enough, a type of lichen.

Fish are among the most common of animals to be named after presidents, especially freshwater darters, new species of which are discovered quite frequently. The small perch-like fish is one of the most diverse groups of North American fish and can differ quite drastically from one stream to the next. Former presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore also lent their name to the colorful species. For the current president, however, it seems that there will be two Obama fish swimming around.

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