In the 1990 horror movie Arachnophobia, Jeff Daniels plays a family physician who ends up taking on an aggressive and dangerous spider species that has invaded a small California town with that character killing a lot of spiders in the process. Now, scientists have named a newly discovered tarantula-killing nematode, or roundworm, after Daniels. According to Science Daily (via Consequence of Sound), the tarantobelus jeffdanielsi was recently discovered by scientists at the University of California, Riverside and, of the more than 25,000 described species of nematodes, is only the second known to specifically infect tarantulas. Adler Dillman, the parasitologist who led the team that discovered the nematode had clear reasoning for why the newly discovered type of nematode was named after Daniels.
"His character in [Arachnophobia] is a spider killer, which is exactly what these nematodes are," Dillman said.
Dillman was first alerted to this new nematode in 2019 by a wholesale tarantula breeder whose spiders were dying due to a mysterious infection. When the breeder sent specimens in for analysis, Dillman identified the nematodes. Dillman explained that nematodes have been around for "hundreds of millions of years" and that there are even kinds of nematodes that can infect humans.
"Nematodes have been around for hundreds of millions of years," Dillman said. "They've evolved to infect every kind of host on the planet including humans. Any animal you can know of on planet Earth, there's a nematode that can infect it."
As for Daniels, he had a humorous response to the nematodes being named after him.
"When I first heard a new species of nematode had been named after me, I thought, 'Why? Is there a resemblance?'" Daniels joked. "Honestly, I was honored by their homage to me and Arachnophobia. Made me smile. And of course, in Hollywood, you haven't really made it until you've been recognized by those in the field of parasiteology."
Arachnophobia was released on July 18, 1990, by Hollywood Pictures, the first film produced by the Walt Disney Studios subsidiary. In addition to Daniels, the Frank Marshall-directed film also starred John Goodman, Julian Sands, Harley Jane Kozak, and more. The film was well-received by both fans and critics. A reboot was announced in 2018.
What do you think about Jeff Daniels having a nematode named after him? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!