Animal Auction: All I Want for Christmas is a New Species Named After Me

Up for bid: a relative of the little yellow bat. Purdue photo courtesy of John Bickham

Having a difficult time coming up with a present for a loved one? If a sweater, book, or even one of Audubon’s eco-friendly gifts doesn’t strike your fancy, consider giving a one-of-a-kind gift: the naming rights to a newly discovered species.

Purdue University is auctioning the naming rights to seven newly discovered bats and two turtles, the AP reports. John Bickham, Purdue professor of forestry and natural resources, and colleagues discovered the critters across the globe, from Central America to Africa. The proceeds will go toward research at the university and Discovery Park’s Center for the Environment.

First up for bid is a relative to the little yellow bat. The insect-eating mammal weighs 3 grams and lives in Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The winning bidder will be announced sometime before Christmas.

There are a few restrictions, as far as naming goes, Bickham explains. Essentially, the name will be: Rhogeessa (your name here), with an ‘i’ on the end, following scientific protocols. So if Joe is the winning bidder and christens the creature with his wife’s nickname, Snookums, the bats moniker will be Rhogeessa snookumsi.

This isn’t the first time naming rights for a newly discovered species have been auctioned. In 2005, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s online sale to name a Bolivian monkey pulled in $650,000. The event with the biggest take to date may be the 2007 Blue Auction to name 10 species of fish that raised $2 million for conservation efforts in eastern Indonesia.

As a bonus, Purdue’s scheme may just bring some much-needed attention to the important ecological role that bats play, says Bickham:

"Bats account for about one-fourth of all mammal species," he said. "They also perform an extremely important function as seed dispersers, and in many places they help control insect pests. They are critical in many climates in helping control the insect population. And many plant species depend almost entirely on bats for pollination."

Their guano, by the way, makes excellent fertilizer—which might just make a unique gift for a gardener.

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