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October 24, 2012 4:58 PM Gaga Ferns

By Daniel Luzer

Apparently Lady Gaga is now having some sort of influence on actual scientific research.

Duke Universities researchers have decided to name a newly discovered genus of fern (and thus the19 species within the genus) after the pop star. According to research published in the latest issue of Systematic Botany:

Ongoing molecular phylogenetic studies of cheilanthoid ferns confirm that the genus Cheilanthes (Pteridaceae) is polyphyletic. A monophyletic group of species within the hemionitid clade informally called the “C. marginata group“ is here shown to be distinct from its closest relatives (the genus Aspidotis) and phylogenetically distant from the type species of Cheilanthes. This group is here segregated from Cheilanthes as the newly described genus, Gaga. In this study, we use molecular data from four DNA regions (plastid: matK, rbcL, trnG-R; and nuclear: gapCp) together with spore data to circumscribe the morphological and geographical boundaries of the new genus and investigate reticulate evolution within the group. Gaga is distinguished from Aspidotis by its rounded to attenuate (vs. mucronate) segment apices, minutely bullate margins of mature leaves (vs. smooth at 40×), and less prominently lustrous and striate adaxial blade surfaces. The new genus is distinguished from Cheilanthes s. s. by its strongly differentiated, inframarginal pseudoindusia, the production of 64 small or 32 large spores (vs. 32 small or 16 large) per sporangium, and usually glabrous leaf blades. A total of nineteen species are recognized within Gaga; seventeen new combinations are made, and two new species, Gaga germanotta and Gaga monstraparva, are described.

Got that? Basically what’s going on here is that scientists discovered a type of fern that’s sexually fluid. It reproduces using spores that grow to be both male and female.

According to a piece about the discovery in the New York Times:

“We wanted to name this genus for Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression,” said Kathleen Pryer, director of Duke’s herbarium and professor of biology. “And as we started to consider it, the ferns themselves gave us more reasons why it was a good choice.”

“We think that her second album, ‘Born this Way,’ is enormously empowering,” Pryer apparently explained. The album is important “especially for disenfranchised people and communities like LGBT, ethnic groups, women — and scientists who study odd ferns!”

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer