Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spider, asteroid, mollusc, fish in the name of Zappa

On Thursday, November 13 at 8 p.m. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra is performing the music of Frank Zappa on a program that also includes works by Edgard Varese and Glenn Branca.

This program inspired me to bone up a bit on Zappa, so I read the biography Zappa by Barry Miles. It ends with an interesting list of things named after Zappa. I sniffed around the internet looking for stories about these critters, and almost always found the best resource to be a site compiled by a British writer and musician named Andy Murkin.

In the name of Zappa:

ZapA (Proteus mirabilis) is a gene on a bacterium found in soil, water and the intestinal tract of many mammals, usually noticed by humans when it causes a urinary tract infection. The gene was discovered and named by Bob Belas, who described it as "part of a family of genes called ZapA thru ZapE (kind of hard to push Gails, Dweezils, Moonunits and the like past the scientific peer review)"!

Phialella zappa is a jellyfish discovered and named by Ferdinando ("Nando") Boero, a jellyfish expert from Genoa, Italy, who claims to have reloacted his research to the Bodega Marine Laboratory of the University of California, expressly with the purpose of finding a new species of jellyfish and naming it after Zappa as an excuse to meet him. According to Boero, the Zappa jelly "shows precocious gonad maturation and continuous growth, with the possibility of becoming sexually mature more than once in its life."

Amauratoma zappa is an extinct mollusc that did its thing some 300 million years ago in the mountains of Clark County, Nevada, about 60 miles northeast of Vegas.

Pachygnatha zappa is a species of spider discovered in West Africa by two Belgian spider geeks who noted the "dark grey mark on the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache."

3834 ZappaFrank is a small main belt asteroid discovered by a Czech astronomer and named as a result of what is said to have been the first online worldwide petition process, initiated by Zappa fan John Scialli.

And my favorite, on account of its name - Zappa confluentus is a species of small, bottom-dwelling fish discovered in Papua New Guiniea and named by Ed Murdy, distinguished by its "first spinous dorsal fin pterygiophore" being "bent posteriorly at a point three quarters along its length to extend horizontally over tip of fourth neural spine." Yeah.


The image of the Zappa spider is from Murkin's site, which also links to samples of Andy Murkin's own music.

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