(Photo: REUTERS/Altaf Hussain)
Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins has had a new genus of fish in Sri Lanka named after him after a researcher credited the British atheist for his "rational explanations" of the universe.
The fish, which had been previously classified under the genus Puntius before given their own distinction, were identified by lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda, an ichthyologist and internationally acclaimed conservationist. The sea animals in question are found only in South Asia, and have distinctive long filaments that trail from the dorsal fins of males.
"Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined," Pethiyagoda expressed on Monday.
Dawkinsia, as the new genus is called, comprise around 120 small tropical fish species known as barbs, news agency AFP reported.
"We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth," Pethiyagoda added.
The Sri Lankan researcher further detailed the new genus of fish by describing their special abilities to attract mates – the male Dawkinsia barbs show off their long fin filaments which attract females – although this also attracts predators.
Pethiyagoda explained: "The filaments are rather like the peacock's tail, expensive ornaments that place their owner at greater risk while offering him the reward of being the preferred choice of females."
The author of the God Delusion has not yet commented on the new honor he has received. Most recently, Dawkins stirred up the debate on the tax-exempt status of churches in America by calling the law that provides for it a "disgrace."
"Nobody denies that some churches do charitable work. But that doesn't mean that any organization should automatically qualify for tax-free status simply by calling itself a church. Each church organization separately should make the case that it does charitable work, just as anybody else has to when seeking tax exemption," Dawkins recently wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.