Species Of Tarantula-Killing Worm Named After Jeff Daniels
Typically, the worlds of film and parasitology don’t mix. But after a team of scientists at the University of California, Riverside discovered a new species of tarantula-killing worm, a reference to the 1990 horror comedy Arachnophobia was in order. Yes, the team officially named the species “Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi,” as a nod to the actor Jeff Daniels, who starred in the film.
“His character in the film is a spider killer, which is exactly what these nematodes are,” UC Riverside parasitologist and lead researcher Adler Dillman explained to the university's news site. Daniels’ character of Dr. Ross Jennings indeed has to fight off an invasion of killer spiders in his family’s home, conquering his own arachnophobia in the process.
The nematode — which is microscopic in size — is one of only two found to have the ability to fatally infect tarantulas. Essentially, it kills the arachnid from the inside out. The parasitic creatures make their homes inside the mouths of tarantulas, paralyzing the organs that work a tarantula's fangs. Without the ability to use their fangs, tarantulas cannot successfully capture their prey — thus, dying of starvation.
Arachnophobia was Frank Marshall's directorial debut, with a screenplay from Don Jacoby and Wesley Strick. It was met with positive reviews, with many critics praising the film for blending thriller elements with comedy.
“When I first heard a new species of nematode had been named after me, I thought, ‘Why? Is there a resemblance?’’” Daniels told UCR. “Honestly, I was honored by their homage to me and Arachnophobia. Made me smile.” He then joked, “And of course, in Hollywood, you haven’t really made it until you’ve been recognized by those in the field of parasitology.”