You might not think twice hearing that the fungus Octospora humosa is in trouble. But chances are you’d perk up if you heard that Hotlips needs help. That’s the point of the “Name a Species” competition, run by the Guardian newspaper and the conservation groups Natural England and Buglife. “It’s difficult for people to empathise with scientific names,” notes a Natural England press release. “The colourful and highly descriptive common names that have been applied throughout history have helped bring us closer to the wildlife around us.”
Hotlips was the winning entry in last year’s competition, submitted by 12-year-old Rachael Blackman of Swindon for what the Guardian called “a lurid orange fungus.” (Cheeky Ms. Blackman is certainly on her way to Hogwarts or Oxford after such notoriety.) This year’s list of “ten species with no name” includes a bee-mimicking hoverfly, a parasitic barnacle, and a spider-stalking wasp.
Alas, the competition is open only to U.K. residents and ends July 2. But it’s still fun to root for species everywhere and to chuckle over reader submissions. There seems to be a trend to work austerity-embattled Prime Minister David Cameron into entries. (Hat tip to the New York Times Green blog.)
Image of the bumblebee-mimicking hoverfly Pocota personata by Exo61
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”