OK creepy crawly: New ant species named after Radiohead

A new species of silky ant that grows fungus gardens for food is named after the indie band Radiohead in honor of leader singer Thom Yorke who often raises awareness about climate change.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
2 min read

Stare into the beady eyes of the new silky ant species, Sericomyrmex radioheadi.

Ana Ješovnik

Radiohead has plenty of fans, music awards and critical praise -- and now the band has its own species of ant.

Meet Sericomyrmex radioheadi -- a new species of silky ants found in the Venezuelan Amazon. These clever critters farm their own food using fungi.

In a new study, published on April 24 in ZooKeys, scientists Ana Ješovnik and Ted R Schultz from the Smithsonian Institution's Ant Lab in Washington, DC, collected silky ants from across their entire range in Central and South America.

The scientists closely studied them using a scanning electron microscope and discovered that the ants' bodies were covered with a white, crystal-like layer that might be used to protect both the ants and their fungus gardens from parasites.

The scientists revised the insect genus based on the DNA sequence data and morphology of the ants, and ended up discovering three new ant species, one of which they named after Radiohead.

"We wanted to honor their music" one of the paper's authors, Ana Ješovnik said in a press release. "But more importantly, we wanted to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate-change awareness. "

Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke is very vocal in the media about his concerns around climate change. Radiohead also has a carbon neutral touring initiative where the band plays at venues that use renewable energy and are easily accessible via mass transit.

The scientists also note in their paper that Radiohead's music made for "an excellent companion during long hours at the microscope while conducting taxonomic revisions of ants."


Measurements of the Sericomyrmex radioheadi ant.

Ana Ješovnik