Which one’s Pink?

Image: Arthur Anker

In 1975, on Have a Cigar, Pink Floyd wryly sang “The band is just fantastic / That is really what I think / Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?”

Well, in the rather different world of snapping shrimps there really is no question which one’s pink; and, unlikely as it seems, these two worlds have now overlapped…

The strikingly bright pink-clawed species of pistol shrimp pictured above, and discovered on the Pacific coast of Panama, has been given the ultimate rock and roll name in recognition of the discoverers’ favourite rock band – Pink Floyd. In a paper published today, and co-authored by our head of research Sammy De Grave, it has been named as Synalpheus pinkfloydi.

Just like all good rock bands, pistol shrimps, or snapping shrimps, have an ability to generate substantial amounts of sonic energy. By closing its enlarged claw at rapid speed the shrimp creates a high-pressure cavitation bubble, the implosion of which results in one of the loudest sounds in the ocean – strong enough to stun or even kill a small fish.

Combined with its distinct, almost glowing-pink snapping claw, Synalpheus pinkfloydi is aptly named by the report’s authors: lead author Arthur Anker of the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, Kristin Hultgren of Seattle University in the USA, and Sammy De Grave here at the Museum.

If Synalpheus pinkfloydi had adorned the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals, rather than the famous dirigible pig. Image: Chris Jarvis

Sammy has been a lifelong Pink Floyd fan and has been waiting for the opportunity to name the right new species after the band.

I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old. I’ve seen them play live several times since, including the Hyde Park reunion gig for Live8 in 2005. The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band.

Synalpheus pinkfloydi is not the only pistol shrimp with such a lurid claw. Its closely-related and similar-looking sister species, Synalpheus antillensis, scientifically described in 1909, is found in the western Atlantic, including the Caribbean side of Panama. But the authors of the new paper found that the two species show considerable genetic divergence, granting S. pinkfloydi a new species status and its very own rock and roll name.

Arthur Anker, the report’s lead author, says:

I often play Pink Floyd as background music while I’m working, but now the band and my work have been happily combined in the scientific literature.

Another Shrimp in the Wall featuring Synalpheus pinkfloydi, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History building, and other Pink Floyd references. Artwork by Kate Pocklington.

Animals feature frequently in the Floyd back-catalogue. Indeed, the 1977 album Animals includes tracks titled Dogs, Sheep, and a suite of music dedicated to pigs. Then there’s Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict from 1969’s Ummagumma. In fact, other biologists have already named a damselfly after that album: Umma gumma, in the family Calopterygidae.

However, until today there have been no crustacean names known to honour the band.

The full paper, Synalpheus pinkfloydi sp. nov., a new pistol shrimp from the tropical eastern Pacific (Decapoda: Alpheidae), by Arthur Anker, Kristin M. Hultgren, and Sammy De Grave is published by Zootaxa.

5 responses to “Which one’s Pink?

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