beetle professor

Brett Ratcliffe, an entomology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, holds up beetle specimens in Nebraska Hall on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Brett Ratcliffe has discovered and named more than 200 species of scarab beetles, but with his last three discoveries, he surprised everyone by naming them after “Game of Thrones” dragons.

Ratcliffe, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and entomologist, used inspiration from the HBO series “Game of Thrones” to name three of his eight newest discoveries because he’s a fan of the television series, and he said they do an exquisite job with the dragon animations. The coloration of his new beetles remind him of the fiery colors from the show’s dragons.

Ratcliffe, a research scientist at UNL, studies the biodiversity of insects and specializes in the diversity of tropical American beetles.

He said he started collecting insects when he grew up in Japan, along with other children. Years later, he made his childhood interest into a career of exploration and discovery.

“I say to people, ‘I don't have a job, I have a passion.’ Because I love doing it, I would do the same thing for free,” he said. “I love discovering and finding more about those animals.”

Each beetle is from the genus Gymnetis with each species named drogoni, rhaegali and viserioni. He said scientists name insects after their distinctive body characteristics, according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature — a document that outlines the rules behind naming animals.

“For example, it is considered unethical to name something after yourself. No one does that,” he said. “You can name it after a colleague who was very good at contributing to your science or to find this thing.”

Ratcliffe said many research scientists are worried about the way humans are changing the climate and habitats, and the apathy that pushes animals into extinction even before scientists discover them.

“We kind of have an urge to be out there to discover while we still can to discover this things,” he said.