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Tough parasitic crustacean named for Xena: Warrior Princess

Meet Elthusa xena. This might seem like a weird tribute, but it makes sense.

This is an egg-carrying female specimen of Elthusa xena.

Serita van der Wal

Xena: Warrior Princess still stands (and kicks and slashes) as a role model for strong women heroes. Now "xena" is also a fish parasite found in the mouth of the Orange River in South Africa.

The newly described crustacean might not seem to have much in common with the character played by Lucy Lawless, but it's just as tough as she is. A research team from the North-West University in South Africa named the critter "Elthusa xena."


Original "Xena" actress Lucy Lawless made us all want to scream like a Warrior Princess.

Universal Television

"This species is named after Xena, the warrior princess, in reference to the strong nature of the female cymothoid isopod," the researchers wrote in a ZooKeys paper describing several species of parasitic crustaceans found in South Africa. 

Another factor in the naming is that the holotype (the first specimen used to identify and describe the new species) is an egg-carrying female, ZooKeys publisher Pensoft noted in a statement on Tuesday.

The tiny Elthusa xena attaches itself to the gills of a fish host, in this case the Super klipfish. There was originally only one known species of the crustacean in South Africa, but the study brings that number up to four.  

Elthusa xena might not have the battle cry, muscles or fan following of the original warrior princess, but it stands as a loving tribute to a fantasy legend.