A patriotic Chinese scientist named a newly-discovered beetle species after Chinese President Xi Jinping. Apparently, Xi Dada was less than flattered, given that the beetle feeds on decaying matter.
Posts about the bug have subsequently been removed from Chinese social media sites like Weibo, Douban and RenRen as Chinese censors fumigate the internet yet again.
Wang Chengbin, currently a doctoral fellow at the Czech University of Life Sciences, discovered the species in Hainan, and named it “Rhyzodiastes (Temoana) xii.” Could “xii” merely be an innocent Roman numeral? Well, Wang also came up with a Chinese name “习氏狼条脊甲,” the words “习氏” literally mean “surnamed Xi.”
In an article published in peer-reviewed scientific journal Zootaxa, Wang made clear who the insect was named after:
“The specific epithet is dedicated to Dr. Xi Jin-Ping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, for his leadership making our motherland stronger and stronger.”
Netizens are confused as to whether Wang intended to flatter or humiliate the Chinese president, but the bug has no doubt become a sensitive issue on the Chinese internet. The term “习氏狼条脊甲” is currently blacklisted on Weibo.
It is not unprecedented that scientists name species after the leaders they admire. In the past, species of spiders and sea slugs have been named after Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela respectively.
Aptostichus barackobamai and Mandelia mirocornata
China Digital Times points out that it is the first time a species has been named after a Chinese official. Historic!
However, if Wang had any ill intentions in negatively associating the Chinese leader with a filth-eating beetle, these foreigners certainly won’t let him off lightly for messing with their beloved Xi Dada.
By Victor Fung
[Images via Zootaxa, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia Commons]