The scientific world offers few perks more dear than the chance to name a new species. It’s a benefit enthusiastically embraced by German researcher Christian Lukhaup, who recently identified a previously unrecognized variety of crayfish, a discovery he took as an opportunity to honor one of his favorite political figures, Edward Snowden.
Lukhaup describes the species—which he named Cherax snowden, after the former NSA contractor and whistleblower—in the most recent issue of the journal ZooKeys. A nomenclative raised fist in the dark night of zoological quietism, Lukhaup’s decision arose from his desire to honor Snowden, whom he describes as an “[A]merican freedom fighter,” worthy of respect for “his extraordinary achievements in defense of justice, and freedom.”
Lukhaup elaborated on his choice to the Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi: “We have so many species named after other famous people who probably don’t do so much for humanity,” he told Izadi. “I wanted to show support for Edward Snowden. I think what he did is something very special.”
As Izadi notes, Cherax snowden—which originates in West Papau, Indonesia—has relatively little in common with its namesake, bearing him no particular resemblance. Nevertheless, Lukhaup suggested a more metaphorical connection. “A crayfish lives under a rock,” he explained to Izadi. “It has to hide from his enemies and he comes out in the night and he hunts, and he is protected by a shell.”
Snowden has no shell, but is currently living in Russia. In late July, the White House declined to honor a petition requesting that Snowden be granted a full pardon. His fate remains uncertain.