This is so last week’s news, but Barack Obama has had a genus of (prehistoric) creatures named for him: Obamadon. Oh, those whimsical taxonomists!

Wikipedia has a fine piece on it, beginning:

Obamadon is an extinct genus of polyglyphanodontian lizard from the Late Cretaceous of North America. Fossils have been found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana and the Lance Formation of Wyoming. Researchers describe it as being distinguished by its “tall, slender teeth with large central cusps separated from small accessory cusps by lingual grooves.” The type species was named Obamadon gracilis after United States president Barack Obama, “in reference to the tall, straight teeth, and the manner in which Mr. Obama has acted as a role model of good oral hygiene for the world.” According to Nicholas R. Longrich of Yale University, the creature “was probably a foot long, [and] with these tall, slender teeth it used to eat insects and plant matter.

An artist’s rendering; Obamadon is the little blue lizard in the foreground:

References from the technical literature (all from Wikipedia; not my work):

Longrich, N. R.; Bhullar, B. A. S.; Gauthier, J. A. (2012). “Mass extinction of lizards and snakes at the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1211526110.

Campbell, Hank. Obamadon Gracilis – Toothy Lizard Named After American President, Science 2.0, October 12, 2012.

And the media:

Tau, Byron (December 10, 2012). “Extinct lizard named after Obama”. Politico.

Koebler, Jason (December 10, 2012). “Ancient Extinct Lizard Named After President Obama”. US News and World Report.

Johnson, Carolyn Y. (December 10, 2012). “Yale scientists name Obamadon, a slender-jawed lizard, after the President”. Boston Globe.

Levy, Pima (December 10, 2012). “Scientists Name Extinct Lizard ‘Obamadon’ After President”. Talking Points Memo.

Plus Obama and others in species names:

Crew, Becky (November 29, 2012). “All the Presidents’ fish: Five new species named after Obama, Clinton, Roosevelt, Carter and Gore”. Scientific American.

Then from Jon Lighter on ADS-L, yet another media report on Obamadon and a query:

Is this the first prehistoric beast to be named for its physical resemblance to a specific human being?

My heart says yes.

Somehow I doubt it, given the inclinations of taxonomists, but it would be nice to think so.


5 Responses to “Obamadon”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    Now Obama is famous for Oral Hygiene?!? My word, there is no end to his inspirational abilities.

  2. Greg Morrow Says:

    The artist is Carl Buell, who is a terrific paleoartist (FB here: https://www.facebook.com/carl.buell1)

  3. arnold zwicky Says:

    On ADS-L, Wilson Gray asked about the -don piece of the name. This is a variant of the -odont ‘tooth’ stem, with the -a of Obama swallowing up the -o- of -odont. From Michael Quinion’s affixes site under -odont:

    The ending -odont appears in adjectives that refer to the type of teeth possessed by animals. Examples are labyrinthodont, having the enamel deeply folded to form a labyrinthine structure; bunodont (Greek bounos, mound), having molar teeth with crowns in the form of rounded or conical cusps; diphyodont (Greek dis, twice, plus phuein, come into being), having two sets of teeth during its development, as humans do.

    … Words ending in -odon have the same sense: mastodon, a large extinct elephant-like mammal of the Miocene to Pleistocene epochs (Greek mastos, breast, because it has nipple-shaped tubercles on the crowns of its molar teeth); iguanodon, a large herbivorous dinosaur of the early to mid Cretaceous period, named thus because its teeth resemble those of the iguana.

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