If you stick your head under water in the ocean, you’ll hear a kind of crackling sound. This sound is actually pistol shrimp snapping their claws shut. The burst of sound is so strong that it actually stuns its prey. An already known pistol shrimp was found to be different enough to be a new species and given the new name Synalpheus pinkfloydi, in honour of the rock band. The name is suiting because of its loud sound, pink claw, and because the scientists behind the description love Pink Floyd.
A pistol shrimp generates a lot of sonic energy. It closes its claw so quickly that it creates a high-pressure bubble which implodes to create such a loud sound that it can stun or kill a small fish. The shrimp generates 210 dB of sound, that it about equivalent to an earthquake of Richter 2.0 magnitude. It is louder than a bomb, the point at which human eardrums would rupture, and a rock concert (which is only 158 dB).
This particular pistol shrimp has a large, bright pink claw. It is found on the Pacific coast of Panama. This is not a brand new species. The rock ‘n rolling crustacean was originally called Synalpheus antillensis but was found to be genetically different enough from the other members of the species that it has been declared a separate species. Morphologically, there are very few differences between the two species. There are subtle differences in the snapping claw and several other features. However, they are quite genetically different from each other.
A fitting name
The authors of the study Arthur Anker of the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, Kristin Hultgren of Seattle University in the USA, and Sammy De Grave, of Oxford University Museum of Natural History share a love for ocean crustaceans and Pink Floyd. They were waiting for the right species to name after the band.
“I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old. I’ve seen them play live several times since, including the Hyde Park reunion gig for Live8 in 2005. The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band,” says De Grave.
Apparently, when Pink Floyd first toured in the US, people thought that their band name was actually a person’s name. One reporter asked them “Which one of you is pink?”. The authors told NPR that they were inspired by this quote to name their crustacean. In the official scientific description, the authors state that the name choice is due to the “bright pink-red claw of the new species.” They suggest the common name Pink Floyd pistol shrimp.
“I often play Pink Floyd as background music while I’m working, but now the band and my work have been happily combined in the scientific literature,” said the lead author, Arthur Anker.
It is actually an urban legend that Pink Floyd played a rock concert so loud that it killed all the fish in a nearby pond. This shrimp actually can kill fish with its sound, though probably just one close-by fish. All in all, an unusual, but fitting name choice.