Just last week, a new species of tree was named after Leonardo DiCaprio following the Don’t Look Up actor’s efforts to raise awareness about logging in the area where it was discovered. It looks as if naming species after famous actors has become a trend, because now Jeff Daniels is the inspiration for the official name of a new tarantula-killing worm in tribute to his character from the 1990 horror-comedy Arachnophobia.
The scientists over at UC Riverside decided to call the newly-discovered parasite “Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi” in reference to the actor’s leading role in Arachnophobia, who also had a knack for killing spiders and ended up saving his town of a deadly infestation of them. Jeff Daniels shared his thoughts on being the name of a species with these words:
Jeff Daniels has a perfectly sweet response to the news. The actor is clearly honored, but also adds a bit of clever humor to his reaction, poking fun at the fact at how so very random being the name of a species truly is. Previously, The Amazing Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield had a species named after him called Pritha garfieldi, but overall it’s quite the distinct honor.
There are 25,000 described species of nematodes, as they are one of the most abundant animals on Earth. The “Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi” is unique in the fact that it is the second of these species to be found to infect tarantulas. According to the UCR scientists, once these nematodes get to tarantulas, the spiders begin to “exhibit strange behaviors like walking around on tiptoe and not eating,” along with the appendages that control their fangs malfunctioning. The “Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi” led its tarantula targets to “die of starvation” due to their infection.
1990’s Arachnophobia starred Jeff Daniels as Dr. Ross Jennings, whose barn becomes a breeding ground for an aggressive new species of spiders from the prehistoric times that finds its way into his California town. The movie was the directorial debut for Frank Marshall, who is famously one of the founders of Amblin Entertainment and produced beloved films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist.
The movie that also stars John Goodman was critically loved, especially for playing tribute to classic creature features in an entertaining way, but it wasn’t a commercial success. It remains a fun watch these days and is an underrated ‘90s favorite.