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Welcome to hotlips, zipperback and the gangly lancer

Wednesday 27th July 2011

Ten species enter the English language for the first time as winners of the 2011 'Name a Species' competition are announced.

Emerging from obscurity, ten previously unnamed British species are now enjoying some long-awaited limelight as the results of the competition to give them popular names were announced today (Thursday 21st July).

Thousands of people submitted entries in response to the 'Name a Species' competition organised by Natural England and The Guardian. The competition invited the public to give popular names to ten British species that have until now been listed only in Latin.

The overall winner, suggested by 12 year-old Rachael Blackman, was ‘hotlips’ – Octospora humosa – a disc-shaped fungus that is a vivid orange-red and often resembles puckered lips. Among this year’s winners is the shimmering-ruby tail – nee Chrysis fulgida – a species of cuckoo-wasp named for its metallic-rainbow colouring. The fountain anemone, Ascot hat and scarlet lady were previously only known as Sagartiogeton laceratus, Xerocomus bubalinus and Coryphella browni, respectively. They now join the ranks of the more familiar bluebell, bladderwrack and Devil’s coach-horse, having popular names that describe their characteristics.

Dr Pete Brotherton, Head of Biodiversity for Natural England, said: “This competition set out to inspire the nation, drawing attention to some less well-known species that have, until now, been without a common name. The public have come up trumps with some vivid and imaginative suggestions to rescue these forgotten species from obscurity.”

The ten winning names announced today are:

  • Shimmering ruby-tail (Chrysis fulgida): a shiny bright wasp
  • Zipperback (Chrysotoxum elegans): one of nature’s gardeners
  • Hotlips (Octospora humosa): a red high pressured fungus
  • Ascot hat (Xerocomus bubalinus): a tree-nurturing mushroom
  • Sunburst lichen (Lichenomphalia alpina): a lichen that thinks it’s a mushroom
  • Neptune’s heart sea squirt (Phallusia mammillata): Britain’s largest sea squirt
  • Scarlet lady (Coryphella browni): a recycling seaslug
  • Fountain anemone (Sagartiogeton laceratus): a many tentacle anemone
  • Serpent’s table brittlestar (Ophiura albida): a snaky star in the sand
  • Gangly lancer (Nymphon gracile): an undersea spider with a straw

Today’s ten new species names were selected from over 6,000 entries by a panel of five judges: Dr Peter Brotherton of Natural England, Dr Keith Hiscock of the Marine Biological Association of the UK, Liz Holden of the British Mycological Society, Matt Shardlow of Buglife and George Monbiot author and Guardian columnist.

Dr Brotherton continued: “Biodiversity is the foundation of our own existence and we cannot afford to take it for granted, which is why we are getting the issue out from under the microscope and into the limelight. We’re delighted that this competition has continued to inspire the public’s imagination and encouraged so many to find out more about the amazing range of wildlife we have in this country.”

Adam Vaughan, editor of environmentguardian.co.uk, said: "The fact that a 12 year-old girl won the Name a Species competition puts paid to the lie that today's young generation are not interested in nature. By dubbing a fungus with the witty, memorable and salient name of 'hotlips', Rachael Blackman has probably done more for the conservation of Octospora humosa than any naturalist before her. The quality of this year's entries was superb and I hope Neptune’s heart sea squirt, the gangly lancer, and shimmering ruby-tail will soon find a place in our collective cultural memory."

This is the second year of the competition, which was originally inspired by Natural England’s Lost Life - a report that showed that nearly 500 species have become extinct in England in the last 200 years – and the subsequent call by George Monbiot, author and Guardian comment writer, for a competition to enable the public to become more familiar with the species that we are in danger of losing.


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