Two entomologists decided to name their recently discovered new species of Australian beetles Binburrum articuno, Binburrum moltres, and Binburrum zapdos, bringing Pokémon full circle back to what originally inspired the hit video game series.
In the world of scientific research those who do the hard work of delivering new findings also get to name them, and in the case of Eastern New Mexico University entomology professor Dr. Darren Pollock, and Australian National University Ph.D. student Yun Hsiao, that meant immortalizing their latest beetle discoveries using the names of three of Pokémon’s most famous and powerful birds.
“I made the acquaintance of a Taiwanese entomology student by the name of Yun Hsiao about 5 or 6 years ago,” Pollock told the Eastern New Mexico University press in an interview last week. “When he first made contact with me, it was very apparent that he knew his (beetle) stuff and was very enthusiastic about some of the same things I was.”
During his Ph.D. studies, Pollock discovered a new genus of beetle which he went on to name “Binburrum.” Recently, Hsiao discovered several different beetles from the same genus while collecting specimens for his own work. The new beetles were so distinct that the two decided to collaborate in documenting and naming them for a paper published in The Canadian Entomologist.
“The choice of a name for a new species is not trivial; it must be different from any other described species,” Pollock said. “One of the ways to ensure this is to make a name that nobody would ever have come up with before.”
He went on:
Yun says that he was an aspiring Pokémon trainer when he was young, and so, because of the rarity of the specimens of the three new species, he suggested that we name them after the three Legendary bird Pokémon. Naturally, I thought that this was a great idea, and so, the new species which were unveiled to the world in 2020 are Binburrum articuno, Binburrum moltres and Binburrum zapdos – all with Hsiao and Pollock as the authors. We already have plans to describe more new species of this genus that have turned up since we finished the paper, with perhaps more Pokémon names.
The great irony here is that the Pokémon series was itself inspired in part by insect collecting. Game Freak co-founder and Pokémon director Satoshi Tajiri was famously so into insects growing up that his classmates nicknamed him “Mr. Bug.” Inspired by his childhood love of insect collecting and his later passion for video games, Tajiri eventually came up with the idea for a Game Boy game where players could collect creatures and battle them against one another. Six years later, Pokémon Red and Green were released.
Now life is imitating art and the names of its creatures are being used to better catalog wildlife in the real world.