Others, however, will be remembered in association with making the flesh creep and the skin crawl.

US President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld certainly get that honour after having species of slime-mould beetle named after them.

The honour was bestowed upon them by two former Cornell University entomologists who had the job of naming 65 new species of slime-mould beetle new to science from the genus Agathidium.

However, the scientists deny that this was intended to disparage the politicians, but was meant to pay homage to them.

“We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular,” said Quentin Wheeler, a professor of entomology and plant biology at Cornell for 24 years, who named the new species with fellow scientist Kelly B. Miller.

Whether slime-mould beetles uphold such values is unclear. However, the politicians certainly weren’t singled out for praise as other species were named after present and former wives of the entomologists, Darth Vader, Pocahontas, and the Greek Word for ‘ugly’, and the Latin word for ‘strange’.

According to rules established by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the first word of a new species is its genus, the second must end in ‘i’ if it’s named after a person, and the final part includes the person or persons who first described the species. Thus, all the new species’ names end with Miller and Wheeler.

For anyone who may want to track down one of the new slime-mould beetles: Agathidium Bushi is known from southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia; Agathidium Rumsfeldi is known from Oaxaca and Hidalgo in Mexico; and Agathidium Cheneyi is known from Chiapas, Mexico.

By David Hopkins

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