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Parasite named in honor of reggae great Bob Marley

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Legendary reggae singer Bob Marley has joined Barack Obama and Elvis Presley to have a biological species named in their honor. If Marley had lived long enough, would he have been pleased to know that the creature in question is a small parasitic crustacean blood feeder that infests fish in Caribbean coral reefs? Marine biologist Paul Sikkel reassures the public that the "species is as uniquely Caribbean as Marley."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The feeder infests fish in Caribbean coral reefs, now known as Gnathia marleyi.

"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music," Sikkel, affiliated with Arkansas State University, said in a statement this week.

Young Gnathia marleyi hide among coral rubble, sea sponges or algae and launch surprise attacks on fish, which they then infest, eating enough to fuel their growth to adulthood.

Sikkel says that the adults of this species don't eat at all, but manage to survive for two to three weeks on their last feedings as juveniles.

Caribbean coral reefs are vulnerable to diseases, and Sikkel said his team is studying the relationship between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations.

Gnathiids are the most common external parasites found on coral reefs, ecologically similar to land-based, blood-sucking ticks or disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Bob Marley, who died in 1981, was an iconic exponent of the Jamaican-born music known as reggae. One of his standards is "No Woman, No Cry." The Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rock steady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers (1963-1981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.

President Obama has a lichen named for him and Elvis has a wasp.

Sikkel and his research team described all the life stages of Gnathia marleyi in the current edition of the journal Zootaxia. The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

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