Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) has announced the winning names of their annual critter-naming contest. This year, participants went to bat to name a rare calico lobster and an African tortoise.
From 149 choices, MMA’s staff selected the name Mze (pronounced M-zay) for their Bell’s hingeback tortoise. “Mze is a Swahili word,” says Andrew Mckenna-Foster, MMA’s Director of Natural Sciences. “It means ‘old man!'” Mckenna-Foster adds, using his best old man voice. He continues, “Mze’s got a lot of character. He plows right along, doesn’t let anything get in his way. It’s great watching him forage in the yard. We have no idea how old he is, but we know this species lives for quite a while. Since we expect to have this animal for a long time, we thought it appropriate that he be given a good name. We found him in the brush here on-island; he may have been collected in the wild in Africa as part of the exotic pet trade and released by his Nantucket owners.”
Out of 462 entries, aquarium staff chose the name Princess Dionis for their calico lobster, who has black spots all over her bright orange exoskeleton. Calicoism is a genetic pigmentation mutation that occurs once out of every 30 million lobsters, making it the second most rare lobster coloring. Mckenna-Foster says, “Princess Dionis is just getting situated into lobster life after having spent the summer in our circle tank at the aquarium. So far, her personality does not match that of Clementine, our other rare lobster, who is bright orange.” She’s had roommates all summer, but soon the princess will have her very own chambers, where she will be able to thrive and eat lobster bonbons (also known as fresh clams).
Princess Dionis and Clementine are in the tank at MMA’s aquarium at 28 Washington Street, so they could use some visitors. Sit and chat with ol’ man Mze at MMA’s Natural Science Museum at the corner of Milk and Vestal Streets. Visiting hours for both sites are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. The aquarium is open through August, and the museum is open through September. All three animals will be given great lives in their permanent homes at MMA!