Saturday, February 18, 2006

Animal names

Recently published in The Economist...

Names for sale
Feb 9th 2006
The ancient science of taxonomy might benefit from a little modern marketing

CALLICEBUS AUREIPALATII is a Bolivian monkey whose biggest claim to fame is that its name came by way of an internet auction. It was purchased last year by a Canadian online casino for $650,000; and thus the Golden Palace monkey came into the scientific literature and Bolivian conservationists hit the jackpot.

If that all sounds a bit infra dig, the facts of the matter are that millions of animals are in need of names and that taxonomists require all the inspiration they can get. Frequently they name their discoveries after each other, after members of their families and (at least in the days when private patronage financed collecting expeditions) after the rich dilettantes who paid the bills. But that leaves plenty of critters without a moniker, so the net has been cast wider. (more...subscription required).

Today we have naming of parts

Feb 9th 2006
A global registry of animal species could shake up taxonomy
AT THE moment, the department of entomology at London's Natural History Museum is being rearranged, by bulldozer. It isn't a bad emblem for the broader changes transforming the science of taxonomy. Walls and ceilings are being torn down, and the tatty furniture has been thrown out. Change was due, because nearly 250 years after Carl von LinnĂ©, a Swedish naturalist, invented the modern system of naming living creatures, taxonomists still have no official list of all the animals discovered so far. This makes the work of biologists, ecologists and conservationists—who rely on species names to know just what it is they are studying and conserving—more difficult than it need be. (more...)