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Scientists Name Spiky Sea Snail after Joe Strummer from The Clash

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For thriving in a dark, hot, acidic environment, a deep sea snail is being named after one of punk rock's greatest icons, Joe Strummer from The Clash. There's also the fact its spiky appearance is reminiscent of rock stars with mohawks and spike-studded leather jackets.

Belonging to the Alviniconcha genus, the deep sea snail was discovered alongside five others by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. They're about the size of golf balls and were found at around 11,500 feet at the bottom of the ocean in hydrothermal vents over the course of 15 years, from 1993 to 2008. Their discovery was documented in a study published in the journal Systematics and Biodiversity.

"Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon," explained Shannon Johnson, the study's lead author.

The deep sea snails look identical, but a DNA test confirmed that they are of separate species. While one has been named after a punk rock icon, the others were called after more mundane objects such as research facilities. Aside from A. strummeri, the other deep sea snails part of the study are: A. hessieri, A. kojimai, A. boucheti, A. marisindica and A. adamantis.

For future studies, the researchers suggest that geochemical measurements be taken alongside endosymbiont characterizations and identifications of hosts. Additionally, more comprehensive sampling at ontogenetic stages must be carried out, as well as the proper preservation of molecular and morphological analyses.

"We hope that with greater awareness, morphological traits will emerge so that Alviniconcha snails can be easily identified in the field or from video recordings; however, until then, DNA sequences provide reliable, repeatable traits to differentiate these cryptic species," wrote the researchers.

Other creatures named after celebrities include the Amaurotoma zappa, a snail named after Frank Zappa; the Cirolana mercuryi, an isopod named after Freddie Mercury; the Jaggermeryx naida, an extinct long-legged pig named after Mick Jagger; and the Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi, a spider named after Neil Young.

Naming a hardcore deep sea snail after the punk rock icon seems like a fitting tribute to Strummer whose 12th death anniversary is coming up on Dec. 22.

Aside from Johnson, other authors for the study include Anders Waren, Robert Vrijenhoek, Verena Tunnicliffe, Thomas Schultz, Cindy Van Dover, and C. Geoffrey Wheat.

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