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Jamaican Reggae singer Bob Marley is shown July 4, 1980. A U.S. biologist has named a small crustacean after him. (Associated Press)

Reggae star Bob Marley has scored a rare posthumous honour — a new species of crustacean has been named after him.

U.S. marine biologist Paul Sikkel named a small parasitic crustacean he discovered Gnathia marleyi, because, he says, it "is as uniquely Caribbean as Marley."

Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, made reggae into an international phenomenon with songs such as Exodus and No Woman, No Cry.

"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music," Sikkel, a marine biologist at Arkansas State University, said in a statement Tuesday.

Gnathia marleyi is the first new species to be discovered in the Caribbean for two decades, but Marley’s namesake is no purveyor of hope and good times.

It is a blood-sucking crustacean that attacks fish, similar to land-based, blood-sucking ticks or disease-carrying mosquitoes, Sikkel said.

An infestation of the parasite can retard the growth of the fish.

A biology team at Arkansas State is studying the relationship between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations. Caribbean coral reefs, where Gnathia marleyi hide before launching their attacks on fish, are vulnerable to disease.  

In having a species named after him, Marley joins an exclusive club that includes U.S. President Barack Obama, who has a lichen named for him, and Elvis Presley, who has a wasp named after him, and Far side cartoonist Gary Larson, who lent his name to a species of louse called Strigiphilus garylarsoni. (For other examples, see a recent list compiled by Popular Mechanics magazine.)

It is not the first time Marley's name has been mentioned in connection with a strange critter. A sponge in the Great Barrier Reef called Pipestela candelabra is more informally known as the Bob Marley sponge because of its dreadlock-like appearance.

Sikkel describes his team's research into the life and impact of Gnathia marleyi in the current edition of the journal Zootaxa.