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Newly Discovered Parasite Named After Obama

For better or worse, President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House has been a historic one. As his presidency draws to a close, many individuals and organizations are finding ways to commemorate the 44th American president – some more creative than others. Despite whatever may come of Obama’s political legacy, at least Obama’s name will now live forever in the annals of scientific classification thanks to a newly discovered and named blood worm: Baracktrema obamai.

Barack Obama and Baracktrema obamai.

Barack Obama and Baracktrema obamai.

A team of microbiologists from St. Mary’s University discovered the new bloodborne parasite while conducting field research in East Asia. In a St. Mary’s press release, Professor Emeritus Thomas Platt claims that he got the idea to honor the president by naming the disgusting little worm after him when Platt discovered that he and Obama were in fact distant relatives – fifth cousin, twice removed to be exact.

Baracktrema obamai and Thomas Platt, the worm's discoverer.

Baracktrema obamai and Thomas Platt, the worm’s discoverer.

Baracktrema obamai is a type of blood flukeworm which infects black marsh turtles in northwestern Malaysia. The Journal of Parasitology has published the research describing the turtle-blood-based organism and the unusual reproductive system that distinguishes it from other blood flukes:

The new genus further differs from all other accepted turtle blood fluke genera by having a cecum that is highly convoluted for its entire length, a spindle-shaped ovary between the cirrus sac and testis, a uterine pouch that loops around the primary vitelline collecting duct, a Laurer’s canal, and a dorsal common genital pore.

While some might see the act of naming a turtle blood parasite after someone to be an insult, Platt told the Associated Press that this was a gesture meant to commemorate Obama:

This is clearly something in my small way done to honor our president.

Obama’s name has already been honored by being bestowed on a darter fish (Etheostoma obama), a trapdoor spider (Aptostichus barackobamai), and the Obamadon, a long-extinct lizard that lived alongside dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period.