Meet The 'Ampulex Dementor' Wasp, Inspired by Harry Potter (And This Is What Happens When You Crowdsource Names)
When you put the naming of a newly-discovered creature up for popular vote, you can never quite be sure what you're going to get. Such is the case in Berlin, where a new species of wasp has been named Ampulex dementor , reference to the terrifying, soul-sucking Dementors in Harry Potter. The new wasp, orange and black in color, is one of some 200 types which infest an unwitting host, in this case a cockroach, with its eggs as a means of reproduction — a fitting moniker, therefore, of the wandering ghouls which feast on the happiness of other creatures.
The name is owed to the 300 people who voted on the matter, as part of a special event at the Natural History Museum in Berlin, according to the researcher's report on the merits of turning over such namings to the public. The main reason behind this is to encourage people to share more emotional and personal resonance with the sciences. And out of four pre-selected options, the Dementors won the day.
It's become a pretty common practice in recent years for those responsible for new scientific discoveries to include reference to some facet of popular culture with it, as a means of grabbing attention. Another famous (or infamous) example of this is the Sonic hedgehog gene, named for — well, you get it.
In that case, many people affected by the gene were a little less appreciative of the classic video game reference. The goofy naming of certain genes has been criticized, since it puts doctors and patients in the awkward position of discussing how an abnormality in their Sonic hedgehog gene has caused major health consequences.
There's less risk of uncomfortably childish-sounding diagnosis with the naming of a species. Even though the Dementor wasps are nasty little buggers, it seems fair to assume that people will recognize the name, or remember it more vividly, for the mental associations that exist around it.
So look alive, Harry Potter fans! Not to mention fans of avoiding wasps. Which is everyone.