Was a Newly-Discovered Species of Amphibian Given the Name ‘Dermophis Donaldtrumpi’?

Reports in December 2018 referred to a recently discovered "blind creature that buries its head in the sand."

  • Published 20 December 2018

Claim

A newly discovered species of amphibian was named "Dermophis donaldtrumpi" as an unflattering reference to the U.S. President.

Rating

What's True

An English businessman paid $25,000 at an auction for the naming rights to a newly-discovered species and chose to name it after Donald Trump.

What's False

As of December 2018 the naming process had yet to undergo peer review, so the species had not yet formally been named "Dermophis donaldtrumpi."

Origin

In December 2018, reports emerged online that a newly discovered species of limbless, worm-like amphibian which is “blind and buries its head in the sand” had been named after U.S. President Donald Trump.

In what might have been mistaken for no more than an anti-Trump joke, the English building products company EnviroBuild published the following Facebook post on 18 December, complete with an edited photograph of the creature with Trump’s distinctive hairstyle digitally added to it:

BREAKING: New species of legless amphibian named after Donald Trump

The slimy little worm has limited vision and a skull adapted for burying its head in the ground at a moment’s notice.

Named in honour of Mr Trump’s short-sighted and sluggish approach to environmental issues, it’s hoped Dermophis donaldtrumpi will ensure Mr Trump’s presidency is rightfully remembered long after he leaves office.

The post was authentic, as were news reports that followed. On 8 December, EnviroBuild’s co-founder Aidan Bell paid $25,000 for the right to name the amphibian at an auction hosted by the Rainforest Trust, a charity that acquires and manages threatened tropical rainforests and their endangered inhabitants.

In a press release, EnviroBuild elaborated on the unflattering comparison between Dermophis donaldtrumpi and its namesake, accusing the U.S. president of lacking insight, ignoring scientific evidence, and engaging in nepotism:

Caecilians is taken from the Latin Caecus meaning “blind”, and have rudimentary eyes which can only detect light or dark. Capable of seeing the world only in black and white, Donald Trump has claimed that climate change is a hoax by the Chinese.

The dermophis genus grows an extra layer of skin which their young use their teeth to peel off and eat, a behaviour known as dermatrophy. As a method of ensuring their children survive in life Donald Trump prefers granting them high roles in the Oval Office.

The amphibians live almost entirely underground, believed to have lost their limbs at least 60 million years ago, as an adaptation to burrowing. Burrowing its head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and also appointed several energy lobbyists to the Environment Agency, where their job is to regulate the energy industry.

Caecilians have tentacles used in a sensory capacity to help them find prey. “This Thing Has Tentacles We Have No Idea About” was said by Juliette Kayyem, a former federal prosecutor and a Homeland Security official in the Obama administration talking special council Mueller’s investigation into alleged interference of Russia in US elections.

Bell noted that the naming of the species had not been formally completed yet and would still have to undergo peer review. Chris Redston, the executive director of Rainforest Trust UK, confirmed for us by email that the purchase of the naming rights had gone ahead at the 8 December auction.

Snopes.com
Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

Editorial
  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
Operations
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes