Meet Barack Obama, the parasite

Meet Barack Obama, the parasite

The scientific world is honoring the president of the United States in a surprising way.

President Barack Obama just got a big honor that could also earn him some jokes at his expense: scientists have named a new species of parasite after him. Naming a species after a person is a huge honor in the scientific community, and this situation is no different — but the decision to name a parasite after the president might seem hilarious to his opponents.

The flatworm parasite was discovered by Thomas Platt, who recently retired from Saint Mary’s College. And he had a better reason for naming the species after Obama than most: he’s actually distantly related. Platt is Obama’s fifth cousin, twice removed, according to media reports.

The species official name is now Baracktrema obamai, and it is a 2-inch long parasitic flatworm that infects the longs of freshwater turtles in Southeast Asia. And it’s not just a new species, it’s a new genus.

“Baracktrema obamai n. gen., n. sp. infects the lung of geoemydid turtles (black marsh turtle, Siebenrockiella crassicollis [type host] and southeast Asian box turtle, Cuora amboinensis) in the Malaysian states of Perak, Perlis, and Selangor,” the statement reads. “Baracktrema and Unicaecum Stunkard, 1925 are the only accepted turtle blood fluke genera having the combination of a single cecum, single testis, oviducal seminal receptacle, and uterine pouch. Baracktrema differs from Unicaecum by having a thread-like body approximately 30−50× longer than wide and post-cecal terminal genitalia.

“Unicaecum has a body approximately 8−12× longer than wide and terminal genitalia that are anterior to the distal end of the cecum,” it continues. “The new genus further differs from all other accepted turtle blood fluke genera by having a cecum that is highly convoluted for its entire length, a spindle-shaped ovary between the cirrus sac and testis, a uterine pouch that loops around the primary vitelline collecting duct, a Laurer’s canal, and a dorsal common genital pore.”

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