Barack Obama won’t be President for much longer, but his essence will be immortalized in nature, thanks to a team of scientists who named a parasite after him this week. Baracktrema obamai is, now, officially the name of a turtle-infecting parasitic flatworm, researchers proudly announced in a paper published in the Journal of Parasitology this week. While the President’s critics and fans alike might interpret the commemoration as a form of low-key trolling, a closer inspection of the parasite in question reveals that it resembles Barack in more flattering ways than you’d think.
The Baracktrema flatworm, a blood parasite, can grow up to a full two inches. Compared to its closest relative, another turtle-infecting flatworm known as Unicaecum, Barack’s namesake bug is pretty damn long. At 30 to 50 times longer than it is wide, it’s significantly longer than the Unicaecum, whose length is only 8 to 12 times its width.
Similarly, the President is on the tall side, relative to his peers. At six feet and one inch tall, Barack is no shorty: As far as U.S. leaders go, he’s tied for ninth-tallest together with Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan. (James Madison, a diminutive five feet four inches, could have been the Unicaecum’s namesake.)
For a parasite to sneak into the blood of turtles, it’s got to be pretty stealthy. Baracktrema, not surprisingly, is literally thin as a hair! And, just like his parasitic counterpart, President Obama is not exactly a heavyweight. Much fuss has been made about his thin physique, with even The Atlantic slim-shaming him back in 2012. His thin build is hardly news, though; even Obama himself has publicly referred to his past as a “skinny kid with a funny name.” These days, however, at a BMI of 22.8, he falls squarely in the middle of the “fittest President ever” range.
For a blood-sucking flatworm to have stuck around as long as Baracktrema, it’s got to be pretty hardy. The flatworm sticks it out under some pretty harsh circumstances: After finding its way into the bloodstreams of turtles, it lays its eggs in the lungs’ tiny alveoli, where, presumably by triggering some sort of coughing mechanism — scientists can’t tell yet — the eggs manage to return to the water, where they hatch and continue to spread.
To say that President Obama has withstood some inhospitable environments over the past eight years would be an understatement. He’s managed to last nearly two terms of swatting away unrelenting birth truthers and withstanding the blustering hellfire of Donald Trump. Hell, he survived a trip in the Alaskan wilderness with Bear Grylls himself and lived to tell the tale on the Tonight Show. As he nears the end of his Presidency, it’s only fitting we honored his legacy with something equally as hardy as he is.
It isn’t down with turtles
B. obamai was discovered in the lungs of Malaysian freshwater turtles, which it evidently has no problem fucking over. Okay, the President hasn’t explicitly expressed a death wish for turtles, as far as we can tell, but he can’t be a huge fan of all those right-wing jokers comparing him to that turtle on a fencepost:
Conservatives often liken Obama to a turtle on a fencepost who didn’t get up there by himself, doesn’t belong there and doesn’t know what to do while he is up there. I used to laugh at that joke, but I still had a healthy amount of respect for Obama, who earned his position through talent and hard work. Not anymore.
It’s cool as hell
The patriotic researcher who named the parasitic flatworm, Saint Mary’s College biologist Thomas Platt, Ph.D., said it himself in an interview with AP: “It’s long. It’s thin. And it’s cool as hell.” Just like Barack. And who could argue with that?Photos via Getty Images / Win McNamee