New Lizard Named in Honor of President Obama’s Toothy Smile

The 'Obamadon gracilis' has been named in honor of the re-elected president. And no, Romneydon was never considered.

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SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

US President Barack Obama laughs as he arrives to speak to the 2012 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior in Washington, DC, on December 5, 2012.

President Obama’s broad grin certainly hasn’t hurt his political campaigns, and now it’s helping secure his legacy in a more unorthodox way. A newly discovered prehistoric lizard with an impressive set of teeth has been named “Obamadon gracilis”—a nod to the president’s smile, Reuters reported.

Although the small reptile’s fossil was first found in eastern Montana in 1974, it had been incorrectly classified as a previously existing species until a recent re-examination by Yale and Harvard scientists. It was one of nine newly identified species presented at Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, according to Reuters.

The lizard’s presidential name—created when Yale University researchers combined the Latin “Obamadon” for “Obama’s teeth” and “gracilis” for “slender”—reflects the features it shares with the Commander in Chief.

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“The lizard has these very tall, straight teeth and Obama has these tall, straight incisors and a great smile,” Nick Longrich, a Yale paleontologist, reportedly said.

The lizard, of course, existed long before the 44th President was born. It’s believed that the Obamadon gracilis lived during the Cretaceous period and became extinct alongside many dinosaurs when a giant asteroid hit earth more than 65 million years ago, according to scientists who spoke to Reuters.

Longrich said the research team felt compelled to wait until after November’s election to settle on the name.

“It would look like we were kicking him when he’s down if he lost and we named this extinct lizard after him,” he said.

It’s not the first species to be named in honor of the president. NBC News points out that Obama also has a species of lichen named after him, as well as one of five freshwater perch species discovered earlier this year (The others were named after Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and Theodore Roosevelt, Reuters noted).

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According to Fox News, Longrich insisted there isn’t a political message behind the lizard’s designation.

“We’re just having fun with taxonomy,” he said.

Still, even if political identifiers aren’t uncommon, Obama can perhaps take pride in Longrich’s assurance that the name “Romneydon” was never considered.

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