Australian scientists have named five newly-discovered fly species after characters in the the Marvel comic universe.
The flies pay tribute to Deadpool, Loki, Thor, Black Widow and comic book creator Stan Lee, partly due to their characteristic markings.
The Deadpool fly, for example, is an assassin with markings on its back that resembles Deadpool’s red and black mask, while the Stan Lee is said to be similar in appearance to the late comic titan.
The flies were just five of 165 discoveries named by the scientists in the past year, which included two fish, three subspecies of bird, and a mite that lives on a lizard.
‘Naming a species is the first step to understanding that species,’ said Dr Bryan Lessard, an entomologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.
‘Without a scientific name, these species are invisible to science.’
Dr Bryan Lessard, who himself goes by superhero name ‘Bry the Fly Guy’ on social media is a fan of the Marvel universe and can be seen sporting Marvel apparel on his social media.
All five species have scientific names inspired by the character they honour and are robber flies, which are assassins of the insect world, according to CSIRO.
For wise-cracking anti-hero Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds for the big screen, CSIRO chose the name Humorolethalis sergius.
‘It sounds like lethal humour and is derived from the Latin words humorosus, meaning wet or moist, and lethalis meaning dead,’ Dr Lessard said.
The Stan Lee fly, Daptolestes leei, appears to share the late comic book titan’s characteristic sunglasses and white moustache.
The name honours Lee, the Marvel legend who revolutionised pop culture as the co-creator of many iconic superheroes, who died in 2018.
The other three are named for Marvel characters Loki, the ‘God of Mischief’, played by British actor Tom Hiddleston; Thor, the God of Thunder, played by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth; and the Russian spy Black Widow, who will appear in her own film later this year, played by Scarlett Johansson.
CSIRO bee and wasp expert Dr Juanita Rodriguez said naming new species is ‘fun but vital science’ to help understand differences between species.
‘We discovered a new species of spider wasp that is only found in an area badly impacted by bushfires this summer, so now we can carefully monitor its recovery,’ Dr Rodriguez said.
‘Spider wasps have venom that could be useful for treating Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.’
In total, CSIRO scientists named 151 new insects, including the five Marvel-themed flies.
With only a quarter of Australian insects known to science, the more species are named, the better we can understand their ‘super powers’, according to Dr Lessard.
‘We named two new species of colourful soldier flies from recently burned national parks. These species are found nowhere else in the world,’ he said.
‘Soldier flies have an important role in nature as nutrient recyclers.
‘Losing such species could have knock-on effects in ecosystems and food chains.
‘We are interested in identifying new insect species that might be useful pollinators, nutrient recyclers or the next food source to support the agricultural sector.’
The government agency also named eight new plants, including two species of Lobelia from Queensland – one vulnerable and one endangered – and two new fish, the Smallfin Eucla Cod and Roberts Eucla Cod.
Both these fish were collected several decades ago and stored at the Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart and prevviously only one species of Eucla cod was known to exist.
It also named one new mite that lives on a lizard and three new subspecies of bird, including the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and two Rufous Grasswren subspecies.