Leporinus Enya: OSU researchers officially name a fish after the famous singer

(KMTR image)

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Enya's name just got a little more popular. A group of Oregon State University researchers in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department officially named a fish after the famous singer.

Marcus Chatfield said he listened to Enya’s 1988 hit song “Orinoco Flow” while looking at 100 fish from the Orinoco River. He said they “definitely played Orinoco flow enough that it got embedded in our heads.”

The fish Marcus was studying is traditionally found in the drainage of the Orinoco River in South America. So, with hours of Enya playing while counting scales (16 to be exact), the name Leporinus Enya seemed to fit.

“There's a lot that we don't know about that area," said Marcus in reference to the Orinoco River.

But, by comparing the fish scales, shapes, DNA, length and color patterns, Marcus and the team found an answer to their research question. "We wanted to see if these two species are actually just one species,” he said.

Michael Burns was a graduate student mentoring Marcus. When telling Marcus about the research idea, Michael said, "I was like, oh yeah, this will be easy; we'll get it done."

What they found during their research was a lot more than they expected. "We named two species the Enya -- one, and then also the Villasboasorum one," said Michael.

That’s right, the group found not one but two different species during the project.

In a collaboration with Marcus, Michael took over as lead author and continued the work in a group effort with Oregon State University Associate Professor Brian Sidlauskas.

When the research was completed and published, the Leporinus Enya fish officially got its name.

"150 years from now our names will still be attached to these fishes, and that's such a cool experience as a scientist,” said Michael.

Brian said the species is not new, but the recognition means each fish is a different species. "We discover several hundred new fish species every year,” he said.

He also said he plans to continue researching fish and naming different species. In fact, they have a fish library full of a quarter million fish from all around.

Brian said identifying the fish was an international collaboration. One additional person on the research was also from Brazil.

"This one is from the Xingu River of Brazil. This one is from the Orinoco river of Venezuela," said Brian while displaying different fish.

All three researchers believe their findings fit their admiration of the artist: "I certainly hope that she's pleased by the honor that we bestowed upon her by naming Enya's Leporinus,” said Brian.

Brian also said naming this fish raises international awareness because it lives in harm’s way with the fourth largest dam located in its habitat the Xingu River.

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