If all goes according to plan, cement and concrete maker Lafarge will continue turning a limestone hill in Malaysia into a quarry. It would be business as usual for Lafarge, but bad news for Charopa lafargei, a recently discovered snail that lives only on that hill. The gastropod's name is no coincidence. For the first time, taxonomists have named a species after the entity that could cause the creature's extinction.
Whether this guilt trip will work remains to be seen (Lafarge has said it will avoid certain areas of the hill), but there is something to be said for choosing the name of a species carefully. Research has shown that an animal's common name can affect whether people want to protect it. In a 2012 study, George Mason University researchers found that species with patriotic or cute names are more likely to inspire public support for their conservation. The team that described the snail hopes that the same principle will help persuade Lafarge to protect C. lafargei.What's in a Name?
Survey respondents deemed an animal with a positive name (green) more conservation-worthy than its negatively named self (red).