Scientists have a reputation for not being terribly funny or up to date on the latest pop culture trends. But every once in a while, something comes out of the blue to chip away at that narrative. Geneticists seem to be particularly capable of pulling off culturally relevant jokes. Rather than referring to gene Zbtb7, for example, geneticists went with the much more fun (and easier to pronounce) POKemon. At least until the lawyers forced them to stop.
But many names have made it through the peer-review process, scientifically proving that geneticists are the funniest scientists out there.
Like all vampires, Count Dracula disintegrates when exposed to sunlight. Zebrafish with the Dracula gene die because their blood cells burst following exposure to sunlight.
Thale cress, a flowering weed, is extra fertile when it has the Superman gene. This gene gives it extra stamen, the male parts of flowers, making the plant almost as manly as Superman, favorite son of Krypton.
The Tribbles gene, named after fast-breeding critters from Star Trek, causes unchecked replication of fruit flies’ cells, leading to deformities.
- Ken and Barbie
Ken and Barbie dolls famously lack genitals, much like male fruit flies with the Ken gene and female fruit flies with the Barbie gene.
Pikachu is a super-quick Pokemon. The Pikachurin gene named after it triples the speed at which the eye can receive images and transmit them to the brain. This makes it easier to notice and track quick motions.
- Cheap Date
Cheap dates don’t need many drinks to become intoxicated. Fruit flies with the cheap date gene have similarly low tolerances for alcohol.
All the Tinman from Oz wanted was a heart. Fruit flies with the tinman gene also would want a heart, because they die during their larval stage after not growing one.
Fruit flies with the INDY gene (short for I’m Not Dead Yet, inspired by this scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail) are lucky to live nearly twice as long as a normal fruit fly.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
Fruit flies without the Sonic the Hedgehog gene look a lot like round, spiky hedgehogs. And so the scientists that discovered this gene responsible for shaping vertebrates (including humans) decided to name it after the most famous hedgehog of all.
- Tiggy-Winkle Hedgehog
Tiggy-Winkle Hedgehog works with the Sonic the Hedgehog gene to control the development of the central nervous system in zebrafish. It’s named after a less famous hedgehog, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, an acquaintance of Peter Rabbit in the children’s books by Beatrix Potter.