The Blue Planet Plankton Is The First Species To Be Named After A TV Series


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Some species are named after celebrities. Others have been named after famous catchphrases. (Not one but two species have inexplicably been named "bazinga" after the character Sheldon Cooper from US sitcom The Big Bang Theory.) But, until now, none have been named after a TV show.

The world first goes to the BBC's Blue Planet and the Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, a very small and incredibly intricate species of plankton found in oceans across the globe.


The organism is just 10 microns across. To put it into perspective, that is roughly seven times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans,” study co-author Paul Bown, a professor at UCL's Earth Sciences department, said in a statement

A close-up shot of the recently named Blue Planet plankton. Jeremy Young and Paul Bown, UCL

Blue Planet is a BBC-produced nature documentary that first aired in 2001 and was brought back to screens for the wildly successful Blue Planet II in 2017. The new season, hosted (like the first) by naturalist and British institution Sir David Attenborough, has been applauded by critics. In particular, it has been praised for bringing attention to the ocean's plastic problem

"In terms of the link to the Blue Planet series, we felt they were the unseen stars of the series – hidden in plain view because of their minuscule size - but representing the beating heart of the oceans, providing food and pumping carbon from the shallow ocean to the deep-sea," Bown added


And what does Sir David Attenborough (who already has 11 species named after him) make of the news?

On a trip to UCL to open the recently refurbed department of Earth Science, he called it a "compliment".

"I'm not sure about the likeness but it's lovely,” he added. 

"If you said that plankton, the phytoplankton, the green oxygen-producing plankton in the oceans is more important to our atmosphere than the whole of the rainforest, which I think is true, people would be astonished.


"They are an essential element in the whole cycle of oxygen production and carbon dioxide and all the rest of it, and you mess about with this sort of thing and the echoes and the reverberations and the consequences extend throughout the atmosphere."


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