Natural Phenomena Named After Frank Zappa


This series of articles describes a variety of Natural Phenomena - marine, terrestrial and extra-terrestrial - which have been named in honour of Frank Zappa, the smallest being a gene belonging to a bacterium, the largest being an entire planet.

Many people are unaware that not one, but two extant marine creatures are named after FZ: one is a regular fish, the other a jellyfish.

Fish, of course, played a significant role in FZ's work: most famously, there was the Mudshark, which featured prominently from the time of the Fillmore East album in 1971, Thing-Fish in 1984, and the Yellow Shark, performed in 1992; minor references to various 'denizens of the deep' exist elsewhere.

In addition to these, there is an extinct shellfish bearing the Zappa name, and a spider from the Congo, which even looks like FZ!

Zappa fans can be found everywhere, and in all walks of life, so perhaps it's no surprise that some of them are responsible for discovering and naming things. FZ himself loved to do this:

"He liked naming things. He had names for absolutely everything: furniture, my mother's toenails . . ." [Moon Zappa, Rock Kids, BBC Radio 1 (UK), 20 Apr 1997]

I found, as I researched the subject and corresponded with participants, that the subject of Natural Phenomena Named After Frank Zappa took on a whole new dimension, and I was struck forcibly by the strength of feeling evoked by FZ - his music, his philosophy and his personality.

The stories of how these phenomena came to be thus named are both entertaining and at the same time illustrative of the high regard in which FZ was - and is - held.


There are 7 parts to this article:

  1. The Gene
  2. The Fish
  3. The Jellyfish
  4. The Mollusc
  5. The Spider
  6. The Planet

and

  • The Science Page
  • which includes the naming system used by scientists, technical terms and further information about the types of creatures under discussion.

    I updated these pages in 2008 and discovered that some of the external links don't work any more. Most of them I was able to fix, but not all. Sorry about that.


    I would like to express my thanks to Joe Black at Rykodisc, Nando Boero, Onno Grosso, Ed Murdy, Bob Belas, Jan Bosselaers and David Ocker for their encouragement and cooperation.

    Credit should also be given to David's wife, Leslie Harris, marine biologist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, for her diligence in looking up references and alerting her husband to important matters of a Marine Biological nature.

    *

    "Strange what people find interesting. My excuse is that I married a marine biologist."
    [David Ocker]


    For an account of a different type of memorial to FZ - his induction into the Rock Hall of Fame, see the Hall of Fame Page


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