When Philip Hoenle discovered an ant that had long trap-jaw mandibles and smooth, shiny cuticles, it wasn’t difficult for him to comprehend that it was a new species of ant. The ant was transported to an entomologist, Douglas B. Booher, intoxicated in ethanol(wink)…
The ant came in a small vial of ethanol, sealed in a plastic bag, and packed in a small cardboard box. It was addressed to Yale’s Douglas B. Booher.
German entomologist Phillip Hoenle had discovered the ant, which he noted had some peculiar features, in a rain forest in Ecuador. Now he wanted Booher, a research associate in the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change and the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, to confirm whether this trap ant was truly a new species. If so, Hoenle and Booher would have the honor of naming it.
Booher had imagined this moment for years. He had even discussed it with an old friend from Athens, Georgia, the artist and former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. After receiving the specimen he reached out to Stipe.
“I’m going to name it after Jeremy,” Booher told Stipe.
Naming a species after Jeremy Ayers, a mutual friend of the two, was an odd choice. But then Ayers was as unusual as the smooth and shining cuticles and large trap jaw mandibles of the ant that would come to bear his name.
By the early 1970s, Charles “Jeremy” Ayers, the son of a civil rights advocate and religion professor at the University of Georgia, had found the 15 minutes of fame promised by artist and film director Andy Warhol.
Working with Warhol, the potentate of New York’s pop art scene, Ayers morphed into Silva Thin, one of Warhol’s legion of “Superstars” who through elaborate makeup, unusual dress, and exaggerated poses, blurred gender boundaries in the city’s avant-garde scene.
The Warhol Foundation still owns portraits of the ultra-slender Thin, with exaggerated eyebrows painted black, ruby red lipstick, dark mascara over the eyes, dressed in silk shirt and tie, languorously waving a cigarette.
In the late 1970s, Ayers returned to his hometown of Athens and helped give birth to a thriving artistic community that spawned some of the most popular American bands of the 1980s, including the B-52s and Stipe’s R.E.M. Nestled in the deep South, the college town nurtured a post-Bohemian art scene that drew poets, sculptors, and musicians.
The community also welcomed straight, gay, lesbian, and transgender people long before LGBTQ entered the popular lexicon. And Ayers, philosopher, multi-media artist, and political activist, was the creative straw that stirred this rich stew of creative talent, one person at a time, Stipe says.
Stipe and Ayers became close friends; Ayers even wrote songs for R.E.M. So taken with Ayers was Stipe that he asked Ayers to dance to a musical piece he created. In the video, Jeremy’s Dance, Ayers moves with awkward purpose and a total lack of self-consciousness to Stipe’s synthesized beat.
The video was shown at Moogfest, in 2016, soon after Ayers’ unexpected death following a seizure. He was 68.
“His curiosity for every single person he ever met was the foundation of a fascinating and cross-cultural network of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, often with Jeremy at the very center of several overlapping colonies,” Stipe recalled. “He created the salon, laid the trails; he was the connector, the queen ant if you will, the bringer-togetherer.”
Hoenle wanted to share the honour of naming and discovering a new species of ant along with Booher. Douglas Booher was a research associate in the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change and the Department of Ecology and Evolution Biology.
The exceptionally long trap-jaw mandibles and the shining cuticles made it an interesting ant to be researched on and named thereafter.
The rainforests of Ecuador provided a great chance to Hoenle and Booher to name an ant on a person whose community had never been respected or honoured in this way in which I’m going to tell you……..
A GERMAN ENTOMOLOGIST and a research associate at Yale University, with some help from R.E.M.‘s Michael Stipe, have named a new ant species Strumigenys ayersthey, after Charles “Jeremy” Ayers, the artist and political activist who was part of Andy Warhol‘s legion of “Superstars” as the gender-bending Silva Thin.
The story was reported this week in the scientific research publication EurekAlert!
After entomologist Phillip Hoenle discovered the ant in a rainforest in Ecuador, he sent a specimen to Douglas B. Booher, a research associate in the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change and the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, to confirm if it was really a new species. After making the confirmation, Booher reached out to Stipe, a close friend of the late Ayers, to receive his blessing for the new name.
The son of a civil rights advocate and a religion professor at the University of Georgia, Ayers became a part of Warhol’s New York City crew in the early Seventies, performing in drag as Thin with exaggerated feminine features, a silk shirt and tie, and a trademark cigarette. Ayers was also a prominent songwriter, and by the late Seventies, he had returned to Athens, Georgia, where he helped foster a vibrant music and arts scene and co-wrote songs for R.E.M., the B-52’s, and more.
Who is the person?
Booher had not always been an entomologist. Prior to being this, he was a businessman doing construction work. He got in friendship with a person named Charles Jeremy Ayers.
This person Ayers was of a different kind when compared to the rest. He was an inquisitive person and had great camaraderie with each person around him. Thus, he had a large number of acquaintances and friends.
Ayers was a champion of the then ignored community which is now known as the LGBTQ community. He went back to his hometown Athens, Greece and opened an artistic community welcoming all straight, gays, lesbians. The community got quite popular shortly due to its diversity in gender.
Alt: Athens city in Greece.; Description: Hometown of Ayers where he first welcomed people of all genders.
The community, more specifically Ayers, attracted Booher. He met Ayers and got motivated to realise his true passion for being an entomologist. Ayers was a person who accepted a person as he was, he let them be what they are.
Ayers was also cast by film director and potentate of New York’s pop art theatre, Andy Warhol in a 15-minute role as a drag. Ayers was dressed extravagantly with dark red lips, dark mascara over the eyes, silk satin shirt and tie, exaggerated poses and a trademark cigarette between his lips; for Silva Thin ads.
Alt: Jeremy Ayers.; Description: Ayers performing as a drag for Silva Thin cigarette ads.
The character was one of Warhol’s legions of ‘Superstars’…!!…
Jeremy Ayers (1948 – October 24, 2016) He was an American artist, writer, photographer, and musician. Ayers was a member of the Athens, Georgia, creative community, published three books of photography, and co-wrote songs for The B-52’s and R.E.M. In 2021, a newly discovered species of ant (Strumigenys ayersthey) was named in his honor.
Why was Ayers chosen?
Booher wanted to celebrate the attitude of Ayers towards life and his approach to gender diversity in the world. Certain changes had to be done due to this choice but that was eased out by the International Code of Nomenclature in the year 2007.
The Code designated that it wasn’t necessary to specify the gender of the person in the scientific name of a species that is being named after an individual. Earlier the nomenclature used was:
- The Latin suffix ‘ae’ was used to indicate a female.
- The Latin suffix ‘i’ was used to indicate a Male.
Booher chose the name Strumigenys ayers for the new species of the ant but he knew that Ayers would shy away from such an honour which was given to him individually.
So another nomenclature was introduced to name a species irrespective of gender.
The newly added suffix is- ‘they’.
The new name of the Ecuadorian ant is Strumigenys ayersthey.
This suffix encompasses all the people celebrating and embracing diversity in the gender norms. It represents every member of the LGBTQ community and celebrates its acceptance and variety.
Alt: The flag of the LGBTQ community.; Description: Ayers became the flag bearer of the community in Athens.
Ayers was a person of extreme love for biodiversity and the environment. He was a superstar of ‘his’ community. He was the HERO…
What a man Ayers was…!!…
-by SAMBHAVI YADAV