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Cutpurse takes the gold!

Wednesday 25th July 2012

Emerging from obscurity, ten previously unnamed British species – five of them marine – are now enjoying some long-awaited limelight as the results of the competition to give them popular names were announced today (Monday 23rd July). The overall winner was the Ďcutpurse waspí, hitherto known only as Aporus unicolor " a wasp that breaks into the burrow of the purse web spider, paralyses it and uses the still-living body as a host for its own eggs.

Other winners included the solar-powered sea slug, corrugated scarab and semaphore fly, previously known as Elysia viridis, Brindalus porcicollis and Poecilobothrus nobilatus respectively. Itís hoped that their more memorable (and easier to pronounce) new names will find them places in the popular imagination alongside species such as the kingfisher, dormouse and bee orchid.

Thousands of people submitted entries to this yearís Name a Species competition, which again invited the public to give popular names to ten British species that have until now only had scientific names. The entries were judged by our panel: Dr Peter Brotherton, Natural Englandís Head of Profession for Biodiversity; Dr Keith Hiscock, Associate Fellow at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth; George Monbiot, author and Guardian columnist; and Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.

Matt Shardlow said: "Each of these animals is a small miracle, from the solar-powered sea slug that adopts bits of the plants it eats so it can turn the sunís energy into food, to the cutpurse wasp with her skilled assassination of purse-web spiders in their underground lairs. People should be on first name terms with these little beauties, and now they can be".

George Monbiot said: "We looked for names which were both functional and delightful, and I hope people will agree that we found some great examples. Ten more species now have memorable and evocative names, which, I hope, will mean that they are more likely to be valued and protected."

The ten winning names are:

  1. Royal flush sea slug (Akera bullata): Sea slug that escapes by flapping and exuding purple ink.
  2. Cutpurse wasp (Aporus unicolor): A spider-hunting wasp
  3. Corrugated scarab (Brindalus porcicollis): A shiny grooved scarab
  4. Spiny mudlark (Brissopsis lyrifera): Spiny urchin in the mud
  5. Solar-powered sea slug (Elysia viridis): Photosynthesising sea slug
  6. Elusive knapweed bee (Halictus eurygnathus): A lost bee of the South Downs
  7. Clock face anemone (Peachia cylindrica): 12-tentacled lurker in the sand
  8. Wannabee fly (Pocota personata): Hoverfly disguised as a bumblebee
  9. Semaphore fly (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus): A glittering green fly which waves its white tips to attract mates
  10. Crab hacker barnacle (Sacculina carcini): A parasitic barnacle that takes over its crab host

Keith Hiscock added: “The winners have suggested names that help to ‘tell a story’ about the biology or appearance of a species which will, hopefully, be memorable and informative to those who enjoy peering into rockpools or peeping under boulders on the seashore or who get into the water snorkelling or diving.”

This is the third year of the competition, which was originally inspired by Natural Englandís 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 for a competition to enable the public to become more familiar with the species that we are in danger of losing. Todayís ten new species names were selected from thousands of entries by the judges.

Peter Brotherton concluded: "Species extinctions donít just happen in rainforests, they also occur in the UK. These losses matter and often involve species that are unknown and unloved. This competition attracted entries from thousands of people of all ages, showing the real interest that exists in all of Englandís wildlife, from sea slugs to spiders. These species have new names that resonate and delight, giving me real hope that they will become better known and have a bright future."

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