Justin Timberlake Justin Timberlake Justin Timberlake had a fruit named after him. (Photo: NBC Universal)

Justin Timberlake joins the 'celebrity namesake' club

With melon honor, pop star is part of an odd yet persistent tradition.

After performing to a crowd of tens of thousands in Tel Aviv in May, Justin Timberlake left Israel with more than just his entourage. A group of local farmers bestowed the pop star with a unique honor – they named a melon after him.

The new "Justin" melon looks like a cantaloupe, has a distinct sweet taste and a three-week shelf life, and should arrive in Israel's supermarkets this fall.

Timberlake joins a distinct group of well-known celebrities who have had new discoveries or innovations bear their names. A short roundup:

  • A biologist named a Mojave Desert spider after Bono from U2.
  • Another California-dwelling spider was named for Angelina Jolie
  • A hairy crab in the Antarctic was named after "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff.
  • A beetle species found in Idaho was named for Robert Redford.
  • A parasitic crustacean in the Caribbean Sea was named after Bob Marley.
  • A fish species native to Tennessee was named in honor of President Obama.
  • And a "bazinga" bee in Brazil was named after a famous catchphrase from the hit sitcom "The Big Bang Theory."

So, why do people name new discoveries after celebrities? "From our research we know that people attach to media characters and celebrities in what is known as para-social relationships," Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a professor in the Department of Communication at Haifa University, told From the Grapevine. "Such relationships are similar to social relationships in many ways, though they are one-sided. It is possible that naming a melon is a sign of a para-social relationship but, of course, it could also be a smart PR move to make these melons stand out."

Along with his honorary melon moniker, Timberlake received a warm welcome from fans in Tel Aviv. Watch him perform his hit song "Mirrors" during the show:

http://youtu.be/IKlSTswp6Zs

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