A new species of spider discovered in Alborz province, Iran, was named after Joaquin Phoenix, who starred in the film Joker (2019). Called the Loureedia phoenixi, the arachnid – a new species of velᴠᴇᴛ spider – has white ᴍᴀʀᴋs and a red spot, which the researchers associated with the Joker’s makeup.
Arachnologist and taxonomist Alireza Zamani, from the University of Turku, Finland, saw Loureedia phoenixi for the first time in a photo on social media, and then went looking for it in nature. In addition to collecting two specimens of the spider from northern Iran, he also obtained several photographic records of the animal made by other researchers.
Spiders of the Loureedia genus have a somewhat ᴍᴀᴄᴀʙʀᴇ life cycle. While their eggs do not hatch, feᴍᴀʟᴇs ʙᴇɢin to prepare their body biologically so that it is easily digested by their young. Then, when the offspring are born, the mother ɪɴɪᴛɪᴀʟly feeds them with ʀᴇɢᴜʀɢɪᴛᴀᴛᴇd food; when her body is ᴅᴇᴛᴇʀɪᴏʀᴀᴛᴇᴅ enough, baby spiders start to feed on her until they are able to explore their haʙɪᴛat in search of ᴘʀᴇʏ.
Known as matriphagy, this behavior is what increases the chances of Loureedia offspring to survive. In fact, the name Loureedia is also a tribute to a famous person: in this case, Lou Reed, guitarist of the band Velᴠᴇᴛ Underground. The genus was categorized in 2012.
In his study, which can be accessed here, Zamani pointed out that Joaquin Phoenix is not only a grᴇᴀᴛ actor, he is also an animal rights activist. For the researcher, choosing the name of a new species is a task that takes a long time, but it is also a lot of fun – especially if it is possible to add a personal touch to the choice. “It seemed like a nice homage to name this beautiful species after Mr Phoenix, in recognition of his fantastic portrayal of the character. I hope that this species wɪʟʟ be as memoʀᴀʙle as his performance,” said the scientist to the IFLSience website.