When you first hear that a new species of Australian bee fly has been named after the Night King from Game of Thrones, you might assume some scientists are just trying to hook some interest by latching on to the last flickers of popularity from their favorite TV show.
But rest assured, Paramonovius nightking genuinely shares some uncanny characteristics with the grand leader of the White Walkers: it’s typically spotted in winter, it has a crown of spiny hairs, and it’s covered in a sprinkling of snow-like dust.
They might only be 11 millimeters (0.4 inches) long, but these guys would probably do a pretty good job at doom-mongering in a miniature Westeros. The species also has the ability to turn other insects into "zombies”. Like other members of the bee fly family (Bombyliidae), it is a parasitoid, an insect whose larvae live as parasites that eventually kill their hosts. P. nightking females lay their eggs in the bodies of other insects before the larvae emerge and feed on the host from the inside and eventually burst out.
"Xuankun Li, who named the bee fly Paramonovius nightking, is a PhD student at CSIRO and a huge fan of Game of Thrones, proving that inspiration for new species names can come from anywhere," Bryan "Bry the Fly Guy" Lessard, an entomologist at CSIRO's National Research Collections Australia, said in a press statement.
As originally reported in the journal Austral Entomology, the insect was actually discovered in 2012 by a pair of amateur scientists in Wandoo National Park in Western Australia. However, the researchers wanted to give it a memorable name in the hopes of raising awareness about this lesser-known species, according to Australia's national science agency, CSIRO. Currently, less than a quarter of Australia's half a million species have been named.
“It has a serious side, but naming new species is the most fun a taxonomist can have," added Lessard.
"Our biodiversity runs the planet. It cycles nutrients, sequesters carbon, pollinates crops and cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink. We literally couldn't live without it."
The bee fly isn't the only member of the insect class to be named after a Game of Thrones character. After discovering three new species of beetle, a plucky team of entomologists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln named them after Daenerys Targaryen's trio of dragons, Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, with the names Gymnetis drogoni, Gymnetis rhaegali, and Gymnetis viserioni.