Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been inspiring people throughout the country for decades now — including, it seems, the people responsible for naming insect species. A new species of praying mantis has just been named for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and if that's not enough to give you bragging rights in the insect world, I don't know what is. This is even cooler than that time someone made a Ruth Bader Ginsburg coloring book.
Researchers Sydney Brannoch and Gavin Svenson were the first to identify this species of praying mantis, which lives in Madagascar, and thus got to be the ones to pick its scientific name. Noting that the mantis has neck plates that resemble the ruffled collar that Ginsburg wears — which is technically called a jabot — they decided to pay tribute to the justice. The new species is properly called Ilomantis ginsburgae.
It wasn't just about neck ruffles, though. Turns out, identifying this species in the first place required researchers to go against some sexist scientific thinking, and honoring Ginsburg — herself a relentless crusader for gender equality — was also a nod to that. Apparently, when it comes to classifying insects, species are typically identified by individuals with male genitalia. For what might be the first time, however, researchers have now identified a separate species "by establishing a female genitalia character system," as explained in a press release.
Which is pretty revolutionary and badass. Much like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In explaining the classification system, lead author Sydney Brannoch, a Case Western Reserve University Ph.D. candidate, described the female-centric approach as "novel" but also sensible. “As a feminist biologist, I often questioned why female specimens weren’t used to diagnose most species," she explained in a press release. "This research establishes the validity of using female specimens in the classification of praying mantises. It is my hope that our work not only sets a precedent in taxonomy but also underscores the need for scientists to investigate and equally consider both sexes in other scientific investigations.”
It sounds like something Ginsburg herself might advocate for, if she'd gone into biology rather than law. And it seems fitting that her name would be involved in such a historic moment.
All hail Ilomantis ginsburgae!