A new species of ant able to grow fungus as a source for food has been discovered – and will be named in honour of the alternate-rock band Radiohead.
Is it filled with existential angst?
Not that we’re aware of, but Sericomyrmex radioheadi is from a genus of ants that have evolved the ability to grow their own little fungus-farms in order to create a regular source of food.
Using DNA sequencing and a scanning electron microscope, the study, published in the journal ZooKeys, found that the females of the new Radiohead ant have a previously unknown crystal-like layer covering the bodies of the females.
This is the head of the new species, Sericomyrmex radioheadi © Ana Ješovnik
Why haven’t we found them before? Do they live in fake plastic trees?
Don’t be silly, they come from the notoriously massive Amazon rainforest, the bit in Venezuela to be precise. The Radiohead ant is also a newly-evolved species (albeit a four million-year-old one), so it may be able to shed some light on evolution in future studies. When organisms quickly evolve into new species’ it is known as rapid speciation, and the discovery of the Radiohead ant will provide researchers with a prime candidate for evolution and speciation experiments.
This is a close-up of ant body surface with a crystal-like layer, as seen under an electron microscope © Ana Ješovnik
So it doesn’t really sound like it has anything to do with Radiohead…
None at all, but then it’s rare that animals named after rock bands do. In fact it’s usually just a nod to the scientist’s favourite band, and this is no exception, although Co-author Ana Ješovnik does add a little more. “We wanted to honor their music” she said, “but more importantly, we wanted to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate-change awareness. ”
The band that brought the world “Pyramid Song” and “No Surprises” are active charity-supporters, and have been directly involved in raising awareness of conservation and climate-change.
Lead singer Thom Yorke, has spoken out about climate change and has made alterations to his own lifestyle in order to reduce his, and the bands, carbon footprint.
So what do the band have to say about their new Venezuelan friend?
We asked, they had no comment.
Follow Science Focus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flipboard