The newly discovered species was found by Thomas R. Platt, who spent decades studying turtle viruses before retiring recently from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. Over the course of his career, he said, he has named about half a dozen parasites after his friends, his graduate school advisor at the University of Alberta in Canada (Molenius samueli) and even his father-in-law (Neopolystoma fentoni).
The idea of naming a parasite after the 44th president of the United States came to Platt after he learned that he was the fifth cousin, twice removed, of Barack Obama, the study explained. Platt said their common relative was a man named George Frederick Toot, who lived in Middletown, Pa., from 1759 to 1815.
This isn’t the first parasite to be named in Obama’s honor. In 2012, a team of researchers from the University of New Mexico, Oklahoma State University and the University of Hamburg in Germany christened a hairworm species Paragordius obamai because it was discovered about 12 miles from where the president’s father was raised in Kenya. P. obamai infects crickets, not humans, and is the first hairworm of its type known to reproduce asexually, according to a report in the journal PLOS ONE.