What do you call a 328 million-year-old fossil octopus with 10 arms? A decapus? A kraken? The researchers who analyzed the fossilized monster from Montana went in a different direction — and came up with a name that pays tribute to President Joe Biden.
The scientific label for the sea monster from the days before the dinosaurs, Syllipsimopodi bideni, isn’t intended as a comment on the 79-year-old politician’s age. “Bideni” merely recognizes the fact that the paper describing the species was submitted to the journal Nature Communications not long after Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
“I wanted to somehow acknowledge the moment in a way that was more positive and forward-looking,” study lead author Christopher Whalen, a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History and Yale University, said in a news release. “I was encouraged by the plans President Biden put forward to counter anthropogenic climate change, and his general sentiment that politicians should listen to scientists.”
“Syllipsimopodi” is the more scientifically meaningful part of the name: That genus designation comes from the Greek words for “prehensile foot,” and the researchers say Syllipsimopodi bideni is the oldest-known cephalopod to develop suckers on its 10 sinuous arms.
The specimen also appears to clear up some evolutionary questions about the common ancestor of present-day squids and octopuses.