A Shrimp That Can Kill With Sound Is Named After Pink Floyd

Apr 12, 2017
Originally published on April 13, 2017 9:20 am

Legend has it that the band Pink Floyd once played so loudly at a show that the sheer volume had killed all the fish in a nearby pond.

Now there's a new species of shrimp, named after Pink Floyd, that can kill fish by making a loud noise. Synalpheus pinkfloydi rapidly opens then snaps closed its large claw, creating a sound that can reach up to 210 decibels — louder than a typical rock concert and loud enough to kill small fish nearby.

It turns out, however, that its new name has nothing to do with that urban myth about Pink Floyd's volume. Dr. Sammy DeGrave, head of research at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, says the inspiration for the shrimp's name was really the color of its claw: pink. "The reference is to the line, 'By the way, which one of you is Pink?' from the song 'Have A Cigar'," DeGrave told NPR when reached over the phone. "The story is when Pink Floyd first went to America, people thought one of the band members was actually named Pink. A reporter asked, 'Which one of you is pink?" so that's what stuck in our mind and that's where [the name] came from."

DeGrave said he'd never heard the story about the deathly loud Pink Floyd concert. "Yeah," he says, "that doesn't really sound possible."

He's probably right. The story has endured over the years in no small part because of Nicholas Schaffner, who wrote the biography A Saucerful Of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey. In describing a 1971 show at London's Crystal Palace, Schaffner says, "The performance climaxed with the emergence of a fifty-foot inflatable octopus, shrouded in dry ice, from the little lake separating the audience from the stage, while fireworks exploded overhead. Unfortunately, the music's volume was such that the real fish in the lake expired from the trauma." The more likely cause of death, in retrospect, was the dry ice the band dumped in the water, and the underwater explosive flares used to inflate the Octopus.

This isn't the first time Dr. DeGrave and his colleagues have named crustaceans after their favorite bands — there's another species of shrimp named Elephantis Jaggerai, after Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.