Gravicalymene bakeri – Trilobite Named After Actor Tom Baker
Two Australian scientists have named a new species of trilobite in honour of Tom Baker, the English actor, perhaps most famous for portraying the fourth incarnation of the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who. The trilobite fossils, preserved in mudstone, come from Ordovician-aged strata in the Gunns Plains area of northern Tasmania. The new species has been named Gravicalymene bakeri. This genus had never been found in Australia before, it is known from Europe and North America, so this discovery significantly raises the distribution of this genus. The discovery reported in the “Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology”, raises the intriguing possibility that around 450 million years ago, oceanic currents could have somehow linked eastern and western hemispheres.
A Photograph of the Newly Described Gravicalymene bakeri with an Explanatory Line Drawing
Picture Credit: Australian Museum
A Serendipitous Discovery
Co-author of the scientific paper Dr Malte Ebach of the University of New South Wales, explained that the first evidence of a new species of trilobite was found by chance. Whilst driving through the Gunns Plains area, a “call of nature” break was required. It was whilst on this “call of nature”, that a boulder was spotted that was covered in the remains of these ancient, marine invertebrates.
As for the species name, fellow co-author Dr Patrick Smith, (Australian Museum, Sydney, New South Wales), stated that both he and Dr Ebach wanted to honour Tom Baker as his stint as the fourth doctor had inspired them both to pursue a career in the sciences.
Dr Smith commented:
“I’m not old enough to remember Tom Baker’s episodes which were originally aired in 1974-81. However, growing up as a teenager when the series re-aired in the early 2000’s, I followed the show religiously and became convinced that a career in science was guaranteed to improve the world.”
Actor Tom Baker (AKA Doctor Who from 1974-1981)
Picture Credit: Archive/Sydney Morning Herald
Actor Tom Baker expressed his delight when he was told the news that he had been honoured by having a Tasmanian trilobite name after him.
The actor who has enjoyed a long career in film, television and radio commented:
“I am delighted to be entitled at last. I hope the Who World will share my joy. Will I be allowed to tack “Fossil” on official correspondence? I hope the Who World will celebrate this fresh honour and will spread the news to those who live in remote places. Happy days to all the Who fans everywhere.”
The Gravicalymene genus is known from marine deposits associated with Avalonia, Baltica and Laurentia (Europe and North America) but this is the first time this genus has been reported from eastern Gondwana (Australasia).
The scientific paper: “A new Ordovician (Katian) calymenid, Gravicalymene bakeri sp. nov., from the Gordon Group, Tasmania, Australia” by Patrick M. Smith and Malte C. Ebach published in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.