Science

Scientists name a tarantula-killing parasite after actor Jeff Daniels

Daniels says he's honored.

Jeff Daniels is lending his name to a parasite that kills tarantulas. 
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Researchers at the University of California at Riverside discovered a parasite that infects tarantulas and then named it after actor Jeff Daniels.

Scientists believe the parasite, Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, causes tarantulas to "walk on tiptoe," stop eating and lose control of their fangs. How the parasite accomplishes this is still a mystery. But eventually, the tarantula will die, according to the university. 

What does any of this have to do with actor known for roles in The Newsroom and Dumb and Dumber? It's a references to his 1990 horror-comedy film Arachnophobia.

"His character in the film is a spider killer, which is exactly what these nematodes are," UC Riverside parasitologist Adler Dillman said in a statement. The newly named parasite is a nematode. There are more than 25,000 nematode species in the world, but this is only the second one discovered that infects tarantulas. The findings were published Monday in the Journal of Parasitology.

Daniels said in a statement that he is honored.

"In Hollywood," he said, "you haven't really made it until you've been recognized by those in the field of parasitology."