Animals

A new Little Monster: ‘Wacky’ bug with unusual sex organs and spiky horns is named after Lady Gaga

A ‘wacky’ species of bug with strange sex organs and spiky horns has been named after the pop star Lady Gaga.

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The unusual appearance of the treehopper insect from Nicaragua — Kaikaia gaga — brings to mind the singer’s outlandish costumes.

Treehoppers feed off of plants by piercing them with their beaks and sucking out sap. They ‘sing’ to each other by creating vibrations that travel along plant stems.

Scroll down for photoA 'wacky' species of bug with 'strange sex organs' and spiky horns has been named after the pop star Lady Gaga. Pictured, the specimen of Kaikaia gaga, which was found in Nicaragua

A ‘wacky’ species of bug with ‘strange sex organs’ and spiky horns has been named after the pop star Lady Gaga. Pictured, the specimen of Kaikaia gaga, which was found in NicaraguaThe unusual appearance of the treehopper insect from Nicaragua — Kaikaia gaga — brings to mind the singer's outlandish costumes. Pictured, Lady Gaga in concert in 2010

The unusual appearance of the treehopper insect from Nicaragua — Kaikaia gaga — brings to mind the singer’s outlandish costumes. Pictured, Lady Gaga in concert in 2010

WHAT OTHER BUGS HAVE BEEN NAMED AFTER CELEBS? 

Kaikaia gaga is far from the first species to be given a name in honour of a celebrity figure.

Beyoncé lent her name to Scaptia beyonceae, an Australian horse fly with a golden behind, for example.

Meanwhile, the beetle Agra katewinsletae was named after actress Kate Winslet’s role as Rose DeWitt Bukater in ‘Titanic’ — as the bug’s rainforest home is imperilled.  

Entomologist Brendan Morris of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign named the insect after Lady Gaga in recognition of what he calls the artist’s ‘flamboyant, shape-shifting style’.

‘If there is going to be a Lady Gaga bug, it’s going to be a treehopper, because they have these crazy horns and a wacky fashion sense about them,’ he said.

‘They are unlike anything you’ve seen before.’

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‘I love outrageous forms and colours. It blows my mind that a group that is roughly 40 million years old has so much diversity of form — diversity, I would argue, that we don’t see in any other family of insects.’

The freshly-named specimen — a female — was collected from a tropical forest on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast nearly 30 years ago and is distinct from other treehoppers found in the same area.

Mr Morris identified Kaikaia gaga among around a thousand specimens that he borrowed from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh to study.

To tell individual species of bugs apart, entomologists rely on the identification of characteristic differences in head and body shapes, leg and body hairs and genitalia.

When Mr Morris studied Kaikaia gaga under a high-powered microscope, he discovered several unusual characteristics.

Treehoppers feed off of plants by piercing them with their beaks and sucking out sap. They ‘sing’ to each other by creating vibrations that travel along plant stems. Pictured, Kaikaia gagaA part of Kaikaia gaga's thorax — the section of the insect behind the head (pictured) — was horned, like many other specimens, but the bug's leg hairs were different from those on the other tribes of treehoppers that he examined

A part of Kaikaia gaga’s thorax — the section of the insect behind the head (pictured) — was horned, like many other specimens, but the bug’s leg hairs were different from those on the other tribes of treehoppers that he examined

‘The frontoclypeus, which is like the face, was shaped totally different. The genitalia also looked more like treehoppers from the Caribbean,’ Mr Morris said.

The last observation was strange, he added, because treehoppers are thought to have originated in the Americas. 

More genetic research is planned to explain why Kaikaia gaga shares traits with older treehoppers.To tell individual species of bugs apart, entomologists rely on the identification of characteristic differences in head and body shapes, leg and body hairs and genitalia. Pictured, the 'strange' sex organs of Kaikaia gaga, seen in close-up+8

To tell individual species of bugs apart, entomologists rely on the identification of characteristic differences in head and body shapes, leg and body hairs and genitalia. Pictured, the ‘strange’ sex organs of Kaikaia gaga, seen in close-upEntomologist Brendan Morris of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign named the insect found in Nicaragua after Lady Gaga (pictured) in recognition of what he calls the artist's 'flamboyant, shape-shifting style'

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Entomologist Brendan Morris of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign named the insect found in Nicaragua after Lady Gaga (pictured) in recognition of what he calls the artist's 'flamboyant, shape-shifting style'

Entomologist Brendan Morris of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign named the insect found in Nicaragua after Lady Gaga (pictured) in recognition of what he calls the artist’s ‘flamboyant, shape-shifting style’

Mr Morris tried unsuccessfully to extract DNA from the 30-year-old treehopper specimen.

He plans to travel to Nicaragua in a bid to find living Kaikaia gaga specimens in the forest where this one was collected.

‘Treehoppers are wacky and I think that makes them especially suited to be “spokesbugs” for the wide range of habitats they use,’ he concluded.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal ZootaxaThe unusual appearance of the treehopper insect from Nicaragua — Kaikaia gaga — brings to mind the singer's outlandish costumes

The unusual appearance of the treehopper insect from Nicaragua — Kaikaia gaga — brings to mind the singer’s outlandish costumes

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