Illustration by Kellie Jaeger

The Attenboroughs

By Nathaniel Scharping

David Attenborough's contributions to humanity don’t just live in film and print; they run, jump and swim across the face of the Earth.

To have a species named after you is one of the highest honors any naturalist can receive — it means that a piece of our planet's biological magnificence bears your name. Sir David has been honored in this way time and time again by researchers hoping to say “thank you” for the impact he’s had on their lives.

Beyond a press release or a news article, though, many of these species go largely ignored. In a partial attempt to rectify that, and in the spirit of Attenborough’s work, I decided to write about each and every one of them.

Well, the current ones at least. I‘m painfully aware that even as I write this, an enterprising researcher or two has seen fit to render the list once again unfinished. I'll add more when I get the time, though I do feel reasonably comfortable with the title "World's Most Complete List of Species Named After David Attenborough”.

They cover an impressive amount of phylogenetic ground; dead sea reptiles shoulder up against delicate flowers and parasitic bees. Some are known only from a single individual. They are interesting only to the extent that any creature inhabiting this world is interesting, which is to say, immensely.


Check out the Attenboroughs: