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Want to name a sea slug? A nonprofit might let you.

To raise cash, some science and environmental groups will let donors name species for a fee.

For $15,000, you could name this sea slug.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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Forget about getting a building named after yourself. The cash-strapped Scripps Institution of Oceanography is offering what might be an even better deal to someone looking to make a mark in history: A rare hydrothermal vent worm will forever be emblazoned with your name if you fork over $50,000.

For those on a smaller budget, a mere $15,000 will land you in the annals of marine biology as the namesake of an orange, speckled nudibranch, also known as a sea slug.
Across the world, “name a species” fundraisers are spreading into a variety of scientific fields. In recent years, donors have vied for the rights to grant names to frog and shark species, among others.

To supporters, naming programs are appropriate ways to raise money and draw attention to science during times of major financial stress. But critics see plenty of potential for abuse.

“There are concerns that profiteering is inappropriate,” says Joe Mendelson, curator of herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, at Zoo Atlanta. “There are people out in the taxonomy community who say as soon as there’s money involved, this is flat-out wrong.”

So far, profits from name-a-species promotions have run the gamut from huge to modest. The biggest bounties came in 2005, when an online casino donated $650,000 to name a monkey species, and last year, an ocean-species naming auction in Monaco raised $2 million for research. The African nation of Rwanda, meanwhile, raises funds through a high-profile program that names individual gorillas each year.

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