The Grateful Dead influenced many members of an entire generation, but their influence continues to this day. In fact, their influence has now probably exceeded what any of the band’s members could have anticipated. A newly discovered extinct otter species has been named after guitarist Bob Weir.
Kari Prassack, who is a self-admitted Deadhead, is a paleontologist with the U.S. National Park Service. Prassack identified a previously unknown species of otter that is now extinct. The jawbone of the otter, which was discovered in the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in the 1980s, had initially been mislabeled. Prassack discovered the mislabeled jawbone in 2014.
Since Prassack was the one to make the discovery, she was given the honor of naming the species. She said that it was an easy choice to name the otter species after Weir since the Grateful Dead had such an impact on her life. The five years that she spent following the Grateful Dead and seeing more than 100 concerts also gave her the opportunity to explore a number of fossil sites. Prassack said she became more adventurous as a result of her experiences following the Grateful Dead, eventually deciding to pursue her dream of becoming a paleontologist.
After discovering the misidentified jawbone at the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello, Prassack submitted a paper about her discovery. Other scientists agreed with her discovery and the paper was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new otter species was named Lontra weiri. The genus is lontra, while the species is weiri (for Bob Weir). The new species is the earliest example to be discovered of North American river otters. Scientists estimate that this otter, which may have lived as much as 3.8 million years ago, was probably about half the size of modern otters. The Bob Weir otter probably weighed about 10 pounds.
Even more than 20 years after Jerry Garcia’s death, the Grateful Dead are still having an influence. Who would have thought that influence would include the naming of newly discovered extinct animal species?