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‘Star Trek’ Spiders: Scientists Name Newly Discovered Species for Kirk, Spock and McCoy

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Star Trek fans and spider enthusiasts have unexpectedly converged on a new frontier.

Scientists in Brazil announced that they had identified three new species of spiders and subsequently named them Kirk, McCoy and Spock after some of the main characters of “Star Trek.”

The trio of spiders are part of the Roddenberryus genus, a taxonomic classification named for Gene Roddenberry, who created the 1960s science fiction television series that spawned decades of films, sequels, comics and a community of devoted Trekkies.

Mr. Roddenberry, who died in 1991, “inspired generations of kids to pursue scientific careers,” wrote Alexander Sánchez-Ruiz, a zoologist, and Alexandre Bragio Bonaldo in their article in European Journal of Taxonomy, published on Sept. 6, explaining how a science fiction franchise became the basis for the spiders’ names.

The nomenclature was not entirely frivolous. Dr. Bonaldo, a researcher at the Paraense Emílio Goeldi Museum in Brazil, said in an interview that the spiders’ wide, fused heads and thoraxes, known as the cephalothorax, and long abdomen of the spiders “make them ideal candidates for names inspired by the Star Trek universe.”

“They somewhat resemble Star Trek spaceships,” Dr. Bonaldo said. “Arachnologists have a long tradition of giving interesting scientific names for new genera and species, as most of us believe it is a great opportunity to acknowledge people or draw parallels with pop culture and local customs.”

Once Dr. Bonaldo and Dr. Sánchez-Ruiz agreed to call the genus Roddenberryus, naming the three species after the main characters “became, as Spock would say, ‘only logical,’” they said. “Kirk” honors James Tiberius Kirk, the captain of the series’s spaceship, the U.S.S. Enterprise. “McCoy” was named for Dr. Leonard McCoy, the ship’s chief medical officer, and “Spock” shares a name with Kirk’s pointy-eared Vulcan First Officer.

McCoy, Spock and Kirk now belong to a family of spiders known as Caponiid, which is unique for having only two eyes instead of the more common eight, and rows of teeth, bristles, orange carapaces, pale abdomens and claws.

The spiders are found across the Americas, Africa and Asia, but they are commonly within a single location, such as on an island or in another strictly defined area. Roddenberryus Kirk is from the Guanacaste and San José provinces of Costa Rica, while Roddenberryus mccoy hails from Baja California Sur in northwest Mexico. Roddenberryus spock is found in Campeche and Quintana Roo in Mexico.

Dr. Bonaldo added that the discovery of new genus and species provided the team with material to study the evolution and diversification of their subfamily, Nopinae, “and potentially illuminate the intricate biogeographic history of Central America and the Caribbean.”

It is not unusual for arachnologists to name newly identified spiders after a celebrity, pop culture icon and now, even a fictitious human-Vulcan hybrid. The climate activist Greta Thunberg was the inspiration for spiders of the Thunberga genus of Madagascar in 2020. Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, said the spider named after Thunberg was meant to draw attention to the threat that climate changes pose to species diversity in Madagascar and elsewhere.

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