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Bob Marley dissed!

Fans angry over naming of blood-sucking parasite after reggae icon

BY PAUL RODGERS Science Editor rodgersp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012    

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REGGAE fans reacted with disgust yesterday to reports that a newly discovered, blood-sucking parasite had been named after the legendary Bob Marley.

A chorus of "Why? Why would they do that?" was heard around Half-Way-Tree, Kingston, as the Jamaica Observer showed a picture of the microscopic, milky-white, eight-legged monster to a random selection of music lovers.

"It's disrespectful," said several fans.

"It's a vampire," said Peter Steele, 45, a musician who often sings Marley songs. Instead, he suggested, scientists should name a lion after his hero.

Paula Pitter, a nurse who has been listening to Marley since she was a child, spoke for most when she said sternly: "It's not appropriate."

Her daughter, seven-year-old Ashley, took one look at the creature and recoiled, saying only that it was "scary".

"It's disturbing to look at," added Danielle, 12, a Campion College student who was with her aunt. "It's an ugly parasite with hairy legs that looks like a ghost."

The animal, Gnathia marleyi, is a tiny crustacean with a miniature lobster tail and feeds on fish such as the French grunt on coral reefs in the eastern Caribbean.

The Gnathiids are a common family of parasites found around the world's oceans, from the Arctic to the tropics.

Bizzarely, the choice of name was intended as a tribute not an insult.

"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for his music," Dr Paul Sikkel of Arkansas State University reportedly said in a statement.

"Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as Marley," said the marine biologist, who discovered the parasite on a field trip four years ago but has only just named it in the journal Zootaxa.

Sikkel could not be reached yesterday.

Paul Kelly at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston declined to comment and Lisa Wright, the customer services co-ordinator at the Bob Marley Foundation, said: "It's really not that important."

But Rastafarian elder Paketo Wilson, 56, a cultural roots musician who was hanging out near Skateland in Half-Way-Tree, disagreed. "They've started to put Bob Marley down," he said. "Bob Marley was not a bloodsucker. He was a man who cared for poor people."

Wilson, who remembers Marley from his Trench Town days, admitted, though, that the legend might have been more tolerant if he'd been alive to see his namesake. "Bob Marley would have laughed and said: 'That couldn't be Rasta.' "

The good news for Marley fans is that the name may not stick.

Susan Perkins, in her blog Parasite of the Day, argued that Sikkel had broken the rules for naming the bug and might have to go back and do it again.

However, she noted that Marley is not the first musician to get the dubious honour of having one of the Gnathiid parasites named after him.

In 1971, scientists named a Venezuelan cousin of the marleyi after their favourite classical composer. It's still known as Gnathia beethoveni.

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