On May 20th, 2013, Edward Snowden was boarding a plane from Hawaii to Hong Kong, ready to unleash a torrent of classified documents that would make him the most wanted man in the world. Sitting anxiously on the runway, gazing on American soil for the last time in his life, he must have had second thoughts: “What’s in this for me? Is it all worth it?”
“Of course it is,” he probably thought to himself, leaning back and closing his eyes, finally at peace with his decision. “Because in two and a half years, someone is going to name a crustacean after me.”
Okay, so that train of thought probably didn’t happen. But this did: Scientists discovered a new species of crayfish and named it after the infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The new species, called Cherax snowden, looks to the untrained eye like other crayfish of the genus Cherax. It was previously sold as pets out of New Guinea under that name until sharp-eyed German researcher Christian Lukhaup decided the differences were too great to ignore.
The new species, characterized by bright orange tips on its pincers, doesn’t look much like its namesake, Edward Snowden, of the species Homo sapiens, with an internal skeleton and only two legs. But Lukhaup told the Washington Post that his naming decision is more about respect than resemblance:
After describing a couple new species, I thought about naming one after Edward Snowden because he really impressed me… We have so many species named after other famous people who probably don’t do so much for humanity. I wanted to show support for Edward Snowden. I think what he did is something very special.
Save the Crayfish!
News of the new species isn’t likely to benefit Snowden himself, but it may do some good for the animal. Lukhaup and the other authors of the study note that pet crayfish populations have decreased in recent years, and may become endangered if a captive breeding program is not introduced soon.
Hopefully this increased exposure will fuel more private interest in protecting the species, because it probably won’t get any help from the United States government.