Purdue University researchers are going after more funding this week by auctioning off the naming rights to seven recently discovered types of bats hailing from Mexico, South America, Central America and Africa, along with two Amazonian turtles, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Universities and ecological organisations across the United States have begun to view the naming rights to new species as a way to draw big bucks to pay for their research.

"There's not very much money to support the kind of work it takes to discover these new species," said John Bickham, a Purdue University professor of forestry and natural resources and discoverer of several of the new bats. "Money generated by someone who says, 'I'm passionate about the environment, and I'd love to go down in history by having a species of organism named after me,' that's very important to our continued work."

It's an interesting opportunity for marketers looking for a new angle with all the right inferences, and there's an online gambling precedent...in mid-2005 Golden Palace Casino paid $650 000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society for the naming rights to a Bolivian monkey. Marketers at the casino were then in full spate on a strategy to seek publicity by buying out-of-the-ordinary stuff that included $28 000 for a 10-year-old, partly eaten cheese sandwich alleged to contain the image of the Virgin Mary!

Golden Palace named the species, which had a golden crown and a white-tipped tail Callicebus aureipalatii - Latin for "golden palace."

The Tribune reports that since then, a fish-naming auction in Monaco raised more than $2 million for conservation work in Indonesia, and the University of Florida took in more than $40 000 for naming a new species of butterfly after an Ohio grandmother.

But name immortality doesn't come cheap, the Tribune points out, and anyone interested in naming the Purdue bats and turtles www.purdue.edu/dp/environment/species/ can expect to pay a hefty sum.

Researchers say that the naming game helps raise awareness of what they call a "biodiversity crisis," the fact that myriad creatures are dying off before they're even discovered.

"We're losing species every minute," said Professor Bickham. "People don't really understand the full impact of this."

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