Champaign, Ill. – The Beyonce Horsefly, the John Lennon Airport and now the Lady Gaga Treehopper. The act of naming things after celebrities is far from a new phenomenon, so when the University of Illinois graduate student Brendan Morris discovered a new species of treehopper, he knew just the way to get the new into headlines.
The reasoning behind the name was more than just for the headline though, as he told the U of I News Bureau, “If there is going to be a Lady Gaga bug, it’s going to be a treehopper, because they’ve hot these crazy horns, they have this wacky crazy horns, they have this wacky fashion sense about them,” Morris said. The species even communicate via “singing” to each other by vibrating plant stems, adding more credence to the naming.
Treehoppers come in all shapes and sizes and are some of the most diverse-looking bugs in the animal kingdom. A type of thorn bug, many might be more familiar with its relatives the cicadas and leafhoppers.
Kaikaia gaga was announced to the scientific world by Morris and his co-author Christopher Dietrich in the journal Zootaxa. It distinguished itself not only as a new species but a new genus. The species different leg hairs, “face”, and genitalia set it apart from any other treehopper currently known Morris explained.
These unique features allude to more questions than answers and open the door to more research. Specifically, the genitalia appeared more in line with treehoppers from other regions such as the Caribbean, and more genetic research is necessary to determine what if any connections K. Gaga might have to other species.
Such questions may take some time to answer though as the current specimen of K. Gaga revealed no DNA and to find living specimens would likely require a trip to Nicaragua, where the original specimen was found.
The paper, “An unusual new genus and species of centrotine treehopper (Hemiptera: Membracidae: Centrotinae) from Nicaragua” can be found online at the University of Illinois’s News Bureau. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.