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Scientists name ancient eel-like creature after Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi

"It is my way of honoring one of the greatest guitarists in the world in one of the greatest bands of all time," said paleontologist Mats Eriksson.
Black Sabbath
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath performs in 1976.Erica Echenberg / Redferns

A newly discovered eel-like creature that slithered across the seas some 469 million years ago has been named after the high priest of heavy metal — Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.

Drepanoistodus Iommii, as scientists have named it, was found near a Russian river by a team of Scandinavian scientists who happen to be metal fans as well.

“It is my way of honoring one of the greatest guitarists in the world in one of the greatest bands of all time,” Mats Eriksson, a professor of paleontology at Lund University in Sweden, said in an email to NBC News. “He is already immortalized in the music history books and now also in science with this fossil bearing his name.”

Scientists naming a fossil after Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.Courtesy / Mats E. Eriksson

Asked if he's heard from Iommi, Eriksson wrote back, "Yes, I heard from his manager who seemed pleased."

The discovery dates to the Ordovician Period, a 41.6-million-year era during which the oceans were dominated by the ancestors of today’s sea urchins and starfish, and a variety of species known as Conodonts, like the one named after Iommi, proliferated.

Conodonts had spines and a “tooth-like apparatus” through which they fed but did not have jaws, according to scientists. Eventually, they went extinct.

Iommi, whose ominous guitar riffs propelled Sabbath’s apocalyptic sound in metal hits like “Paranoid,” "Children of the Grave," and “Iron Man,” is still kicking. He’s a 73-year-old cancer survivor who is gearing up to play on the next solo album of Black Sabbath bandmate and singer Ozzy Osbourne.

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath performs at Ozzfest 2016.Amy Harris / AP file

The well-preserved fossil was found in limestone rock formations that were part of the sea floor during the Ordovician Period and could yield more discoveries, Eriksson said.

“The rocks we sampled at a steep Russian river bluff might not look like much to the naked eye, but they have turned out to be a treasure trove for us fossil aficionados,” Eriksson’s colleague, Anders Lindskog, told the rock music site Blabbermouth.

Iommi is not the first rock god whose name graces fossils discovered by Eriksson and his Swedish and Danish colleagues. Previous finds have been named after Lemmy Kilmister, the legendary Motorhead frontman, and King Diamond, a Danish rock screamer.

“This allows me to combine my life-long love affairs with nature/science and music/art!” Eriksson wrote. “It doesn’t get more beautiful than that in my humble opinion.”

Eriksson also left open the possibility that future fossil finds could be named after the other founding members of Black Sabbath, Osbourne, bass player Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward.

“I have huge amounts of admiration for them all,” he wrote.