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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 14 April 2009
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Dr Robert Hoare, of Landcare Research NZ Ltd, talks about the process that the scientists went through to name the new species they had found when they discovered Fred the Thread.

Transcript

DR ROBERT HOARE
We gave Fred the scientific name Houdinia flexilissima. Flexilissima is Latin for very, very flexible, and of course that refers to this very, very thin caterpillar, which, when you take him out of the stem, he is very droopy and soft. But the other way in which he is flexible is that actually, unlike most caterpillars, he has got a hinge inside his head that helps him to eat his way through the stem, because the stem is so tight that he has hardly got any room to move. So in fact most of the movement that he does is with that is with that hinge in his head, and he literally drags himself through the plant as he eats it, and he has got no real legs at all. So the name Houdinia is named after Harry Houdini who was the famous escape artist. The reason we named Fred the Thread after Houdini was partly because of those very tight stems of the giant cane rush that he has to escape from like an escape artist and partly because he had escaped the notice of entomologists for such a long time.

Acknowledgements:
Invertebrate Systematics, CSIRO Publishing www.publish.csiro.au/nid/121/issue/2003.htm
Birgit E.Rhodes, Landcare Research New Zealand Limited