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New species of ant named after Game of Thrones dragons

Game of Thrones

Brace yourselves: nerdiness is coming. Researchers in New Guinea have discovered two new species of ants, and have decided to name them Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon. Game of Thrones fans should recognize Viserion and Drogon as the names of two of Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragons. Pheidole, on the other hand, is a very common genus of ant.

So what sets apart Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon? And why wasn’t Rhaegal given any love?

The two new species of ant were not randomly named simply because the researchers were fans of Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire). Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon both have abnormally large spikes running down their backs, spikes that resembled the distinctive spikes along the backs of Drogon and Viserion. You didn’t think the ants got their name because they breathed fire, did you?

Drogon burns the Sons of the Harpy in The Dance of Dragons

Like their giant, flying, fire-breathing fictional counterparts, the ants’ spikes serve as a defense mechanism against any would-be predators attempting to devour them. Researchers believe that, in addition to this function, the spikes contain musculature that helps support the ants’ overly large heads, a quality common to ants in the Pheidole genus.

If anything, the spikes on the ant look more dangerous than the ones on the dragons, but then again, Viserion can eat a man whole, so he still has the advantage.

Rhaegal and Viserion


Incidentally, this isn’t the first time a newly discovered special has been named after something from A Song of Ice and Fire. Dr. Tim O’Hara named a new kind of common brittlestar—the Ophiohamus georgemartini—after author George R.R. Martin, on account of how the shape reminded him on the crown on the cover of A Clash of Kings.

Unfortunately, there’s no confirmation on why Rhaegal was left out of the party. There’s gotta be some as-yet undiscovered species of insect that needs naming out there. Get on it, scientists.

h/t Popular Science