• Dolomedes briangreenei, a spider endemic to Queensland, and named after a famous physicist. (Queensland Museum)Source: Queensland Museum
Physicist Brian Greene just got a namesake spider species in Queensland - but he's just one of many who received this, er, interesting honour.
By
Stephanie Marie Anderson

9 Mar 2016 - 3:27 PM  UPDATED 9 Mar 2016 - 3:27 PM

A new water spider, found in Brisbane and endemic to Queensland, has been named after Brian Greene, the world renowned physicist and co-founder of the New York-based World Science Festival.

Dolomedes briangreenei is a new species of the Dolomedes genus. It uses vibrations - or 'waves' - on the surface of the water to navigate and search for prey.

“It’s wonderful that this beautiful native spider, which relies on waves for its very survival, has found a namesake in a man who is one of the world’s leading experts in exploring and explaining the effects of waves in our universe,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said as she unveiled the new spider at the opening of the inaugural World Science Festival in Brisbane today.

And Professor Greene described himself as "honoured to be so closely associated with a spider that has its own deep affinity for waves," on the tail of humankind's first detection of gravitational waves.

With a diet that features small fish, tadpoles, and even frogs, Dolomedes briangreenei is also a competent swimmer, usually launching itself from the sides of pools and off rocks, and scampering across the water surface with the two middle leg pairs.

If you're arachnophobic, you're probably not keen on running into these creepy crawlies, so here's what you need to look out for. Dolomedes briangreenei is a dark spider with long legs; males have bold white stripes along the sides of its head, whereas in females the stripe is narrower and fawn coloured.

On the other hand, if you're a spider enthusiast, here's a list of 12 other famous people who have had spiders named after them.

1. Alan Alda

Alan Alda, star of M*A*S*H and founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, is terribly afraid of spiders. However, he has a Mexican spider called Hapalopus aldanus named after him. Fittingly, Alda is co-headlining the Brisbane World Science Festival with Brian Greene.

2. Angelina Jolie

The Angelina Jolie trapdoor spider (Aptostichus angelinajolieae) is named after, you guessed it, Angelina Jolie. Angie's spider hides in burrows, before leaping out to seize prey, injecting it with venom. It is a species of Euctenizidae, and was named after her by Professor Jason Bond in 2008 in recognition of her work for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

3. President Barack Obama

The current President also has a trapdoor spider named after him, with it's Latin name being Aptostichus barackobamai. One of 33 new species of the genus Aptostichus, Obama's spider was also named by Professor Jason Bond, in December 2012. Getting bitten by this spider would be a very valid reason to reference the "Thanks, Obama!" meme that has been circulating the Internet for years.

4. Tobey Maguire

Known for playing Spiderman in the early '00s trilogy, Tobey Maguire also has an actual spider named after him. The Filistata maguirei is a species of the araneomorph spider family Filistatidae. Endemic to Hormozgan Province, Iran, the male holotype of Tobey's spider measured 5.5mm, while the female paratype measured 9.5mm. No word on if it has the same cry-face as Tobey in the films, though.

5. Andrew Garfield

Tobey Maguire isn't the only Spiderman with a spider named in his honour, though. Andrew Garfield, star of the 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel, also has a spider named after him. 

Pritha garfieldi is a species of the araneomorph spider family Filistatidae. Endemic to Tehran Province, Iran, males typically measure up at 2.37mm, while females measure around 4.48 mm.

6. David Bowie

The "Glass Spider" singer lives on in his spiders namesake, the Heteropoda davidbowie. Bowie's spider belongs to the huntsman family and lives in Malaysia. They get their name from the resemblance they bear to the late singer's signature painted face, and are typically found on tree bark.

7. Harrison Ford

You're bound to get frantic if you ever discover the Calponia harrisonfordi running around your home. A California native (unlike the actor, who was born in Chicago), this spider was discovered in 1993 by arachnologist Norman I. Platnick, is the only species of the genus Calponia and is one of the most primitive members of the Caponiidae family.

Because they're pretty rare, there's a lot about the physiology of Ford's spider is not understood, but word on the street is that they eat other spiders. 

8. John Lennon

Imagine all the people, living life in sheer terror of John Lennon's tarantula. The Bumba lennoni was discovered in 2015 in the Caxiuanã National Forest in Brazil. While the one-inch spider is small for a tarantula, it shares its genus with the larger b. horrida, and has many traits that imply it is closely related to Theraphosa blondi the Goliath birdeater spider, the largest known extant spider species.

10. Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has not only one, but two spiders named after him, the Anelosimus nelsoni and the Stasimopus mandelai. Both spiders are South African, with the Anelosimus nelsoni belonging to the Theridiidae family, and the Stasimopus mandelai being a species of ctenizid trapdoor spider.

The Anelosimus nelsoni holotype and paratype were found 5km south of Cape Vidal, on Fanies Island. Meanwhile, the Stasimopus mandelai syntopically with S. schoenlandi and a number of other mygalomorph spiders at the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.

11. David Attenborough

Despite being first collected in 1986, Attenborough's goblin spider (or Prethopalpus attenboroughi) was only described in 2012, by Dr Barbara Baehr of the Queensland Museum, and Professor Mark Harvey of the Western Australian Museum. It's found only on Horn Island, located off northern Queensland - and so far all we have is a male specimen.

12. Stephen Colbert

Discovered on the California coastline in 2007, Aptostichus stephencolberti is a trapdoor spider that is closely related to Angelina Jolie's one. Colbert snagged his spider namesake the old-fashioned way - by begging. After seeing that Professor Jason Bond (who named both Angelina Jolie and President Barack Obama's spiders) had named a spider after singer Neil Young, he appealed to Bond to do the same for him on his show The Colbert Report.

On a later edition of the show, Colbert revealed that he had spoken with Bond and that the scientist had agreed to name a spider after him. "And all I had to do was shamelessly beg on national television!" Colbert quipped.

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