Recently, a new kind of brittle star was discovered in the deep South Pacific. A brittle star is a kind of echinoderm, an umbrella term that includes sea urchins, sand dollars, and starfish.
According to Nerdist, Dr. Tim O’Hara has given the newly discovered creature the name of Ophiohamus georgemartini, naming it after A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. Why the reference? Does this new brittle star invent colorful, memorable starfish characters and then kill them off? Unfortunately, no. O’Hara, a Game of Thrones fan, looked at the creatures thorny body and was reminded of the crown on the cover of A Clash of Kings, the second book in Martin’s series. Specifically, he was referencing the 2012 release by Bantam Mass Market.
Beyond looking like a crown, brittle stars don’t have much connection with George R.R. Martin. Unlike most starfish, they can move quickly, using their long arms to wriggle across the sea floor (they’re also called “snake stars”). Those arms are protected by hard, calcium carbonate armor. There are over 2000 species of brittle stars. Sometimes, they’ll gather en masse to make a carpet on the sea floor, as in the video below.
Martin himself was amused by discovery. “I’m a star!” he wrote on his Not a Blog. “But I’m a brittle one, it seems…It is all very Lovecraftian. But I’m flattered. And bemused.”