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Posts Tagged "taxonomy"

The Artful Amoeba

Planthoppers of Iran: Are You OK?


Every once in a while, a scientific work comes along of such import that it is impossible not to cover it. Such is the paper “Planthoppers of Iran” (well, actually “An annotated checklist of the planthoppers of Iran (Hemiptera, Auchenorrhyncha, Fulgoromorpha) with distribution data“). Now, I’ll wager you know what an Iran is. But did [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Surprising Lives of Cycads


If you had to guess which organism possesses sperm with 40,000 tails, what would you guess? Elephant? Whale? Chuck Norris? Would you have guessed that it belongs to a plant? This is the sperm of Zamia roezlii. It has a flapper dress-like fringe of tens of thousands of flagella to turbo-charge its way to eggs.* [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Story of Spigelia genuflexa, or, Why Biology Needs YOU


The above plant is a sweet little creature, yet may not seem particularly noteworthy. But it did to a handyman named Jose Carlos Mendes Santos, who found it in the backyard of an amateur Russian botanist named Alex Popovkin in northeast Brazil, took the trouble to carefully uproot it, and shared it with his employer. [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

The Mystery Rust of Kivalina, Alaska


Author’s note: This is the last of a series of four posts in Fungi Month here at TAA. Enjoy! Last month a mysterious orange film (“goo” in the media vernacular) washed up on the shores of a northwest Alaskan village called Kivalina. Experts suspected crustacean eggs; locals were unnerved. In retrospect, reports that the substance [...]

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Compound Eye

Why are media insects misidentified?

Here’s a book cover that reliably sends entomologists into hysterics: What’s so funny? Well, that’s not a bee. In fact, this insect last shared an ancestor with a bee over 350 million years ago. That’s before dinosaurs. According to an index I whimsically invented last year, this cover measures a taxonomy fail of 58. How [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Genetic Tests Reveal 10 Previously Unknown African Terrapin Species

african helmeted terrapin

Imagine living underground for six years waiting for water. That might seem like a challenge, but it’s just a normal part of the life cycle for the African helmeted terrapin. These common side-necked turtles, which bend their necks to the side until their heads are protected by one leg and an overhang of their shell, [...]

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Previously Unknown Mammal Spent Decades Hiding in Plain Sight

picture of the olinguito

As fans of the TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation know, skulls and teeth can provide excellent forensic clues. Yet any taxonomist will tell you that hard-boiled detectives and forensic scientists are far from the only ones to appreciate the investigative powers of craniums and pearly whites. The most recent proof of their taxonomic utility [...]

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The Race to Catalogue Living Species before They Go Extinct


The U.S. has spent several billion dollars looking for life on other planets. Shouldn’t we spend at least that much finding and identifying life on Earth? That is the argument behind a taxonomy analysis by a trio of scientists in Science, published on January 25. They argue just $500 million to $1 billion a year [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Taxonomic vandalism and the Raymond Hoser problem

Australia sure has some amazing elapids. Given that Hoser claims to have the interests of the animals at heart, it's bizarre that he defaces their taxonomy with horrible names that never honour the animals themselves. This is Oxyuranus microlepidotus, the Inland taipan. Photo by AllenMcC, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For some years now, a prolific amateur herpetologist has published an absolutely extraordinary number of new taxonomic names* for snakes, lizards and other reptiles. In addition to naming well over 100 supposedly new snake and lizard genera, this individual has also produced taxonomic revisions of the world’s cobras, burrowing asps, vipers, rattlesnakes, water snakes, blindsnakes, [...]

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