ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology


Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct
Tetrapod Zoology Home

Karl Shuker’s The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



We’re all excited by, and interested in, ‘new’ species; that is, those that have been discovered and named within recent years, with “recent years” variously being considered synonymous with “since 2000”, “since the 1970s”, or “since 1899/1900”.

In the modern age, species discovered within the 20th century are generally considered ‘surprising’ and ‘recent’, and we often refer to them when making the point that new species are surely still out there to find. It’s frequently noted that many surprisingly large animals are among those species discovered anew during the 20th (and early 21st) century. There’s the Okapi Okapia johnstoni, Mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei, Komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis, Giant forest hog Hylochoerus meinertzhageni, the two coelacanths Latimeria chalumnae and L. menadoensis, Hawaiian monk seal Monachus schauinslandi, Megamouth shark Megachasma pelagios, and many others.

Several books include reviews of these often spectacular ‘20th century animals’, but none can be termed comprehensive. Examples include Bernard Heuvelmans’s On the Track of Unknown Animals and Matt Bille’s Shadows of Existence. Given how frequently biologists of all stripes refer to these kinds of animals, it was always surprising that the world lacked an authoritative and comprehensive volume that discussed them all together.

This gap in the market was finally occupied in 1993 when Karl Shuker published The Lost Ark: New & Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (Shuker 1993). 287 pages long and richly illustrated (including with a colour plate section), it was well received and remains much sought after. Enough had changed by 2002 that Shuker produced an expanded second edition, termed The New Zoo: New & Rediscovered Animals of the Twentieth Century (Shuker 2002).

The short version of this review

And much has changed since, for there’s now a third version, the 2012 The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals, subtitled From the Lost Ark to the New 300 – and Beyond (no, I don’t quite understand the subtitle either*). It’s a huge, spectacular volume, c. 280 x 215 mm in size and c. 27 mm thick.

* It’s not “New 300″; it’s “New Zoo”! I was fooled by the quirky font.

Three classic '20th Century' animals: Okapi (by Raul654, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license), Komodo dragon (by Darren Naish), Mountain gorilla (by Dave Proffer, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

The main section of the book is taxonomically arranged, dealing in turn with the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and invertebrates named during the 20th century (Shuker 2012). An additional, 40-page section reviews new and rediscovered animals of the 21st century. The book deals with one species (or subspecies) at a time, devoting anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages on each one. Many are illustrated, and numbered references link to an extensive bibliography. The book is also fully indexed. [Adjacent Okapi image by Raul654; Mountain gorilla by Dave Proffer.]

In short, as a go-to source for the facts and figures behind the discovery events of major 20th and 21st century zoological discoveries, this book is it. Anyone who really needs all this data to hand will find it invaluable, and anyone interested in animals will be sure to enjoy it a great deal. If you know somebody who’s seriously interested in animals and are looking for gift ideas, people young and old will love you for purchasing this book for them, trust me.

Since the text you’re reading now is a review – and when I write a review I see it as crucial to point to deficiencies, shortcomings and such – some of what you read below will seem critical and perhaps even a bit mean. So before I launch into that, let me reiterate what I’ve just said. This book is awesome. It’s a definitive and highly impressive encyclopaedia without competitors, a comprehensive, fun and invaluable compendium that combines accessible and well-written text with appropriate technical citation. If you don’t have time to read the remainder of this long article, you can stop now, since I’ve just told you everything you need to know.

For those of you who want that extra detail, here we go. Remember that it will be nerdy, and also pedantic and critical in places (that’s why you’re here, right?).

What gets excluded, and why?

The giant lungless caecilian Atretochoana. >Not< excluded (read on for relevance). Image by Juliano Tupan.

Shuker states clearly in the introduction that, since he can’t hope to cover all new animals named since the start of the 20th century, he focuses specifically on “spectacular” discoveries and rediscoveries. As he says, it would require a truly encyclopaedic volume to cover all post-1899 new animal species, the vast majority of which would be obscure animals of little interest to the general reader. I can understand all of this, even if I don’t like it: I wish the book better conveyed the fact that huge numbers of new lizard, snake, frog and salamander species – vastly outnumbering new hoofed mammals, primates and birds – have been named in the relevant time period. Oh yeah, there are fish and invertebrates too but (sorry) I don’t care much about those.

True, one simply couldn’t write about these animals at length (we really are talking about thousands of species) and end up with a manuscript that could be packaged into a physically manageable, affordable book. Maybe it would be possible to include a few pages that simply list those species that have been named since 1899, yet aren’t covered at length in the book. Compiling such a list is certainly doable for tetrapods (thanks to various comprehensive published works as well as internet databases)… for fish, I don’t know.

And I realised while writing this that I’d forgotten that Shuker (2012) covers invertebrates too, in which case the idea I’m suggesting is completely unworkable. Ok, forget it, it can’t be done if you’re aiming to cover all animals. A book of this sort simply has to focus on spectacular and notable species; so long as, that is, it includes those damned fish and invertebrates.

What the book looks like on the inside. Most pages have this sort of satisfying picture-to-text ratio.

I do still think, however, that new reptiles and amphibians have often been overlooked in Shuker’s coverage because they’re obscure, not because they’re unimportant. It’s subjective, but they’re certainly no less significant or important than the many new passerines, marmosets and shrew-like marsupials discussed at length elsewhere in the book. On that note, consider that about 15 different members of the same one monkey family (Callitrichidae: marmosets and tamarins) are written about in the book. Note that the remarkable giant lungless caecilian Atretochoana was missing from The New Zoo but – following a playful complaint I made in a published review (Naish 2003) – gets rightful inclusion in The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (Shuker 2012, p. 174).

Black olm (Proteus anguinus parkelj), image by Arne Hodalič, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

If Atretochoana warrants inclusion, other new amphibians and reptiles definitely do too: they really are – sorry, monkey fans – ‘more significant’ than the majority of those 15 new marmosets and tamarins. Among salamanders, I nominate the surface-dwelling Black olm Proteus anguinus parkelj (named in 1994: adjacent image by Arne Hodalič), the Korean crevice salamander Karsenia koreana (named in 2005: Asia’s first plethodontid), and the Patch-nosed salamander Urspelerpes brucei, named in 2009 and representing North America’s first new amphibian genus discovered in 50 years.

Among frogs, I would have expected mentions of Eleutherodactylus iberia (named in 2006, and hailed at the time as the world’s smallest frog), the remarkable hip-pouched Assa darlingtoni (named in 1933), any one of the Taudactylus torrent frogs (all of which have been named since 1913, some of which are now extinct), either of the weird head-burrowing Arenophryne sandhill frogs (one named in 1976, the other in 2008), any of the weird Hemisus shovelnose frogs (all but three of which have been named since 1963), and so on.

Giant leaf-tailed gecko in captivity (the species was known from the pet trade prior to its formal 2006 description). Image in public domain.

What about reptiles? Among lizards, we should see entries on the spectacular Madagascan gerrhosaurid Zonosaurus maramaintso (named in 2006), the giant leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus giganteus (named in 2006), the Australian Superb two-lined dragon Diporiphora superba (named 1974), and the Papua snake lizard Lialis jicari (named 1903). Several lizards are famous and remarkable for being tiny (as in, less than 20 mm long in SVL*), including the chameleon Brookesia tuberculata (named in 1900), the Virgin Islands dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus parthenopion (named 1965), and the Marche Leon least gecko S. elasmorhynchus (named 1966). None get a mention here.

* snout-to-vent length.

And an enormous number of snakes should arguably have been included. Sticking again only to ‘significant’ species, two of the bizarre Madagascan leaf-nosed snakes have been named since 1901, the Arafura file snake Acrochordus arafurae (it can reach 2.5 m in length) was named in 1979, the Milos viper Macrovipera schweizeri (up to 1 m long and from Europe) was first recognised in 1935, and the weird, beach-dwelling Pink snake Cryptophis incredibilis saw description in 1985. Several big, spectacular lanceheads (Bothrops), including the Andean lancehead B. andianus, Barnett’s lancehead B. barnetti and Ecuadorian toadheaded pitviper B. campbelli, have been named since 1923. And so on.

I won’t talk about fish or invertebrates since this is TETRAPOD Zoology.

Anyway, I really hope I don’t seem unfair here. As I say above, I know that Shuker couldn’t include anything like a thorough list of relevant species, and it’s inevitable that annoying cries of “but we need more [insert favourite group] insects/myriapods/fish/frogs/echinoderms” will come from some corners. But the inclusion of reptile and amphibian species often seems random and perhaps controlled by whether or not they were announced in popular media. Furthermore, despite Shuker’s argument that he was only able to include spectacular or truly significant species, the book does appear mammal- and bird-biased. I say again: 15 goddam marmosets and tamarins.

Lots of pictures

The 368 pages are extremely well illustrated, even more so than previous editions, with new photos and new artwork throughout. Getting hold of the sorts of illustrations needed for a book like this is not easy and many will be unfamiliar, even to experienced readers.

Among my favourites are John MacKinnon’s photo of a climbing Sulawesi or Giant palm civet Macrogalidia musschenbroekii, the colour images of the Peacock monitor Varanus auffenbergi and Moluccan yellow monitor V. melinus, Errol Fuller’s Ribbon-tailed astrapia Astrapia mayeri (this image featured on the cover of The New Zoo), and Tim Flannery’s photos of a Dingiso Dendrolagus mbaiso.

Some of the new artwork really is new (Markus Bühler’s illustration of the giant gecko Hoplodactylus delcourti Kha-nyou Laonastes aenigmamus, for example, and Tim Morris’s Galapagos pink land iguana Conolophus marthae and other drawings), while some of it is old (like the various beautiful colour illustrations of John Geraads Keulemans). I find it a bit odd that some of the old bird illustrations are credited to Errol Fuller. Fuller might have supplied them, but a reader might get the impression that he created them. Those who read the cryptozoological literature will also recognise the distinctive art of William M. Rebsamen. Rebsamen’s painting of an Okapi and Saola features on the cover.

Cryptozoology and other problematica

The Minnesota iceman, type specimen of Homo pongoides. Yeah, I know! Image from Cryptomundo.

Shuker is well known as the world’s leading cryptozoological author and investigator, and has a huge number of books and articles to his name. He is also editor of the recently launched, peer-reviewed The Journal of Cryptozoology (he blogs at ShukerNature, by the way). Though qualified in mainstream biology and highly knowledgeable about biology and zoological diversity in general, Shuker is, first and foremost, a cryptozoologist. One interpretation of these three books – even of The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals – could therefore be that their raison d’être is to demonstrate to a sceptical audience the likely probability that new animals (even big, spectacular animals) await discovery.

This is pretty much what Shuker states in the Introduction; furthermore, the book (and its two predecessors) ends with a brief section on ‘The future’ where Shuker ponders the possibility that such cryptids as the mokele-mbembe, yeti, tatzelwurm and crowing crested cobra might one day “[take] their places alongside the okapi, Komodo dragon, Congo peacock … and all of the many other zoological success stories of the 20th and early 21st centuries” (Shuker 2012, p. 311).

I absolutely agree that new large animals surely do await discovery, I also think that at least some cryptids are worthy of serious consideration as potential new species. But I wonder if this book (and its predecessors) would be better off – that is, it would have more credibility – if the references to cryptozoology were dropped altogether.

Ameranthropoides, source of much controversy but generally regarded (I think correctly) as a dead spider monkey (most likely Ateles belzebuth).

Indeed, one criticism of 1993’s The Lost Ark was that it included ostensible discoveries that were definitely too controversial to properly merit inclusion. Believe it or not, The Lost Ark included sections on De Loy’s ape Ameranthropoides loysi (an alleged new Brazilian primate almost certainly based on photos of a dead spider monkey) (Shuker 1993, pp. 36-38), Homo pongoides (Shuker 1993, pp. 72-74), the alleged ‘ape-like man’ named by Bernard Heuvelmans for the Minnesota iceman (Heuvelmans 1969, Sanderson 1975), pygmy African elephants (Shuker 1993, pp. 94-96), and the claimed rediscovery of the Thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus (Shuker 1993, pp. 99-102).

These are all fascinating cases very much worthy of discussion and evaluation, but they’re almost wholly cryptozoological in scope and really shouldn’t be included alongside the Okapi, Komodo dragon and other confirmed, uncontroversial discoveries. Again, their inclusion could be seen as damaging to the credibility of the book. Picture the sceptical zoologist who is curious, pulls The Lost Ark off the shelf and is confronted with several pages on the Minnesota iceman.

I emphasise that there’s nothing like this in The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (Shuker 2012). So, we are seeing a far more credible volume better suited for a sceptical mainstream audience; theoretically, it should be more popular and more widely read among those who work on, or are interested in, technical zoology. There are, however, still quite a few entries that seem out of place.

Best of the several Ufiti photos (credited to Loren Coleman, from ShukerNature).

Take the section on Ufiti. Ufiti was a female chimpanzee from Malawi, encountered and photographed during 1959 and 1960. Despite living wild in Malawi she looked far more like a west African chimp. Accordingly, primatologist* William C. Osman Hill suggested in a 1963 article that Ufiti might actually represent a hitherto undocumented, new form of chimpanzee (Osman Hill 1963). Others, however, argued that Ufiti was most likely an escapee from captivity (a possibility consistent with her willingness to be close to humans); furthermore, the anatomical features listed by Shuker (2012) and others as unexpected anomalies in an east African chimp (e.g., mostly black skin and a grey ‘saddle’ over the back) are known to be so variable within chimps that it’s difficult to accept them as important. Whether you regard Ufiti as controversial or not, the fact remains that this animal was not described as representing a new taxon. Ergo, interesting as it is, it doesn’t really warrant inclusion in the book.

* Not anthropologist, as stated by Shuker.

The famous dead 'onza' shot dead in Mexico in 1986. Genetics showed that this animal was a puma, despite its gracile looks.

I googled 'Kellas cat' and found this. Yeah, that's me with one of the Kellas cats. The Kellas cat is the black furry one.

Similarly, the inclusion of a long section on the onza (pp. 80-83) would create the impression to a naïve reader that the onza is a confirmed and valid species or subspecies of large mammal. It isn’t. As Shuker states, genetic data indicates that those onza specimens subjected to analysis are actually members of Puma concolor (Dratch et al. 1996). The Kellas cat shouldn’t be here either, since everyone – Shuker included (Shuker 1990) – regards it a domestic cat x Scottish wildcat hybrid. Should the King cheetah be included? True, it was initially described as a new species (Acinonyx rex Pocock, 1927) but nobody believes this nowadays. In fact, we know now that it’s just a local variant of A. jubatus.

Shuker also includes a lengthy section on Marc van Roosmalen’s many claimed new mammals from the Brazilian Amazon. Like Shuker, I’m guilty of being massively enthusiastic about the existence of van Roosmalen’s new mammals (I wrote about them at length at Tet Zoo ver 2: see links below). There are two problems, however. The first is that many other experts on South American mammals are far from convinced by van Roosmalen’s arguments that these animals really do represent new taxa. The second is that, even in those cases where van Roosmalen is right, the taxa have (with one or two exceptions) yet to be formally published, and hence can’t be considered valid and established (though, admittedly, we all know that the discovery date and formal publication date of a new taxon can be very different things, and people can announce the recognition of a new species or subspecies long before they name said taxon in print).

Pseudonovibos. Genuine new bovid, or heat-warped cow horns? See the extensive literature.

The incredible semi-terrestrial catfish discovered in Manaus by Peter Henderson still has yet to be formally described, so (unfortunately) probably shouldn’t be here either, nor should the unconfirmed and unidentified giant fish of Lake Hanas. Among other controversial cases, I would say that the fascinating Kting voar Pseudonovibos spiralis – an alleged SE Asian artiodactyl, known only from its distinctive horns and attached frontal bones [adjacent image from Krytozoologické záhady] – definitely does warrant inclusion, even though the status of this ‘species’ is now in substantial doubt. I’m not so confident about the inclusion of the Andean wolf; likewise for the Bili ape, Deniliquin wombat, the alleged rediscovery of the Barbary lion Panthera leo leo and Ivory-billed woodpecker Campephilis principalis, and various other entries in the book.

The sections on some animals seem incomplete in view of ongoing controversies and discoveries. In all cases, the issues involved are technical and hard-core, but they should still have been alluded to. So, the long-snouted Heude’s pig Sus bucculentus from Vietnam now seems not to be a valid species but, rather, a synonym of S. scrofa. Shuker (2012, p. 95) quotes personal correspondence with Colin Groves on this issue, but he doesn’t refer to Robins et al. (2006), a Nature paper that demonstrated the same thing. The discovery of the Cahow Pterodroma cahow in the eastern Atlantic doesn’t get a mention (Shuker 2012, pp. 127-128).

Stresemann's bush crow (Zavattariornis stresemanni): image by Sandy Watt, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

When writing about the obscure passerines Zavattariornis [adjacent image by Sandy Watt] and Nephelornis, Shuker notes that they’ve (partially) defied classification into any of the recognised passerine ‘families’. That’s true, but it ignores the fact that existing passerine ‘families’ are (as conventionally conceived) artificial, non-monophyletic units created for convenience; virtually none have turned out to be monophyletic in modern molecular studies, meaning that a huge number of passerines are currently floating in taxonomic limbo and unattached to their ‘traditional’ homes. In other words, Zavattariornis and Nephelornis aren’t that special, and the inclusion of so many other weird passerines in traditionally recognised ‘families’ was never based on good evidence.

The recently mooted hypothesis that Hoplodactylus delcourti, the giant New Zealand gecko, might not have come from New Zealand at all (Worthy & Holdaway 2002) should probably have been mentioned (see Naish 2004), and I think the ongoing feud about the validity (or otherwise) of the Hololissa needs to be better reflected.

That darned Linnaean system

Carolus Linnaeus in Laponian costume, an 1853 portrait by Hendrik Hollander. Image in public domain. Linnaeus is dead, but is the Linnaean system?

A brief appendix (pp. 315-318) discusses the scientific classification of animals, focusing on the ranked Linnaean system. In the age of phylogenetic systematics it seems odd to emphasise the significance of taxa by pointing to the creation of new ‘Phyla’, ‘Orders’ and such to house them. My recommendation is that all authors who include hierarchical tables listing Linnaean ranks do away with them and replace them with trees of some sort. Life really is arranged in a tree… or a web, whatever your preference. Evolution is integral to everything we understand about the diversity of life, people gain great benefit by seeing the portrayal of hypothesised evolutionary relationships, and educators, researchers and writers should see it as their duty to convey evolutionary hypotheses to the masses. You can’t do that with the Linnaean system.

Personally, I find promotion of the Linnaean system irksome. It’s liked by many people because it provides a convenient (and easy to remember) book-keeping system for the classification of living things, but it often obfuscates (or allows you to ignore) evolutionary relationships. Furthermore, it creates the impression of ‘taxonomic equivalence’. That is, people honestly go around thinking that ‘Orders’, ‘Families’, ‘Genera’ and so on are ‘equal’ across diverse groups. I’m not specifically criticising Shuker here, but users of the Linnaean system in general.

I offer this as something to think about for the next edition, and indeed for authors of popular zoological books in general.

Final thoughts, and why this is a great book

A few other miscellaneous parts of the book require comment.

Each one better than the last.

Loren Coleman’s biographical foreword is odd: it places the timing of Karl Shuker’s birth within the context of the cryptozoological writing that had gone beforehand, and hence is mostly about Sanderson and Heuvelmans. Telling people what you think they should have written is something of a no-no, but (given my comments above) I really think the book would be better served by a foreword that talks more about the history of cataloguing zoological discoveries, and better places Shuker and his work and interests within the context of his zoological qualifications. Both Gerald Durrell’s 1992 foreword written for The Lost Ark, and Lee Durrell’s 2001 foreword written for The New Zoo, are republished here as well.

Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), the 'Okapi of our age'. Image by Alan Rabinowitz.

The two-page acknowledgement section shows that Shuker worked hard to correspond with, and gain new data and images from, zoologists, independent researchers, publishers and organisations all around the world. Shuker’s interest in documenting arcane and obscure animal groups is appreciated by many. Exhibit A: the loriciferan Pliciloricus shukeri, “dedicated to Dr. Shuker for his outstanding book The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century. In this book, the discovery of Loricifera received much credit as one of the major events of the 20th Century” (Iben Heiner, quoted in Shuker 2012, p. 259).

On a similar note (the one about being appreciated), the pouring of one’s time, heart and soul into a book – a big, magnificent, fact-heavy book in particular – is often a somewhat thankless task. You don’t get back any of the sort of financial recompense you rightly should, you’ll likely never hear anything from the people whose lives were really changed by the brilliance of your work and insight, and all you ever get is criticism, criticism, criticism from people who are never happy, no matter what you do.

As I said earlier on in this review, part of my job as a reviewer of a book like this is to point to problems and shortcomings. In this case, I honestly hope that my critical comments are balanced by the positive ones. I do wish that some things about this book were different, but my overriding recommendation is that this is a great book, fascinating and thrilling to anyone seriously interested in animals and the history of zoological exploration and discovery. Nobody else has ever done anything like this, despite both the need for such a work, and the obvious popularity and success that it has achieved (the existence of three separate editions alone is proof of this). Many of Shuker’s works are notable and worthy, but I feel that this volume (and its successors, should it have them) will be considered his tour de force, his magnum opus.

I strongly recommend The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals for anyone seriously interested in animal diversity. Copies should be held by all libraries, both specialist and general-interest, and those with either a technical or amateur interest in zoological discovery are guaranteed to enjoy it. And having only just checked its price online, I also see that it’s highly affordable and nowhere near as expensive as I’d imagined!

Shuker, Karl P. N. 2012. The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals. Coachwhip Publications, Landisville, Penn. ISBN 978-1-61646-108-9, 368 pp., softback. Here at Amazon; here at Amazon.co.uk

Several Tet Zoo articles discuss some of the subjects covered here, including…

Refs – -

Dratch, P. A., Roslund, W., Martenson, J. S., Culver, M. & O’Brien, S. J. 1996. Molecular genetic identification of a Mexican onza specimen as a Puma (Puma concolor). Cryptozoology 12, 42-49.

Heuvelmans, B. 1969. Note preliminaire sur un specimen conserve dans la glace, d’une forme encore inconnue d’hominide vivant Homo pongoides (sp. seu subsp. nov.). Bulletin de I’Institut Royal des Science Naturelles de Belgique 45, 1-24.

Naish, D. 2003. Our new century’s zoology (review of Shuker 2002). Fortean Times 166, 57.

- . 2004. New Zealand’s giant gecko: a review of current knowledge of Hoplodactylus delcourti and the kawekaweau of legend. The Cryptozoology Review 4 (2), 17-21.

Osman Hill, W. C. 1963. The ufiti: the present position. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London 10, 57-59.

Robins, J. H., Ross, H. A., Allen, M. S. & Matisoo-Smith, E. 2006. Sus bucculentus revisited. Nature 440, E7.

Sanderson, I. T. 1975. Preliminary description of the external morphology of what appeared to be the fresh corpse of a hitherto unknown form of living hominid. In Byrne, P. The Search for Big Foot: Monster, Myth or Man? Acropolis Books (Washington, DC), pp. 193-226.

Shuker, K. P. N. 1990. The Kellas cat: reviewing an enigma. Cryptozoology 9, 26-40.

- . 1993. The Lost Ark. HarperCollins, London.

- . 2002. The New Zoo. House of Stratus, Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

- . 2012. The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals. Coachwhip Publications, Landisville, Penn.

Worthy, T. H., Holdaway, R. N. 2002. The Lost World of the Moa. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





Rights & Permissions

Comments 40 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Carneades-IgnosticMorgan 9:35 pm 02/21/2013

    I intend to get it!

    Link to this
  2. 2. Christopher Taylor 11:21 pm 02/21/2013

    We’re all excited by, and interested in, ‘new’ species

    Come to Australia. There’s so many undescribed species lying around here, one runs a definite risk of becoming somewhat jaded about having to deal with them all the time.

    Oh yeah, there are fish and invertebrates too but (sorry) I don’t care much about those.

    Two fingers skywards to you too, mate.

    Among other controversial cases, I would say that the fascinating Kting voar Pseudonovibos spiralis… definitely does warrant inclusion, even though the status of this ‘species’ is now in substantial doubt.

    Personally, I’ve never relinquished my affection for the name this animal originally appeared by, the ‘holy goat’. Regarding its status, one could argue that (on a completely pedantic level) the case is closed, since the type specimen at least is from a water buffalo. Even if there was ever an actual animal exhibiting the kting voar morphology, it was not ‘Pseudonovibos spiralis‘.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Surroundx 5:33 am 02/22/2013

    A great review, Darren. Firm but fair. I concur that Shuker should have stuck to mentions of non-controversial taxa, however being arguably the world’s foremost cryptozoologist, one expected that he would so and thankfully it detracts minimally from an otherwise superb book. I will definitely be buying a copy when finances permit.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Dartian 6:55 am 02/22/2013

    Darren:
    since he can’t hope to cover all new animals named since the start of the 20th century, he focuses specifically on “spectacular” discoveries and rediscoveries. As he says, it would require a truly encyclopaedic volume to cover all post-1899 new animal species

    I think Shuker could have made his job considerably easier, and his book more focused, if he had restricted himself to the most recent discoveries only. I mean, the okapi (for example) has been known to science for more than 110 years now; it’s hardly what most people today have in mind when they think of ‘recently’ discovered species of animals. (Besides, the story of the okapi’s discovery has been told and retold so many times that there’s probably very little to add to it anymore.)

    the Korean crevice salamander Karsenia koreana (named in 2005: Asia’s first plethodontid)

    That, in particular, is a significant omission in a book like this; I’m no amphibian specialist, but even I knew that this discovery was a pretty big deal back when it was announced.

    replace them with trees of some sort

    Ideally, yes. However, to be fair to Shuker, I think that in the case of many of the most recently discovered species that are included in his book, no proper phylogenetic analysis of their relationships have/had yet been published.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Hydrarchos 8:19 am 02/22/2013

    “From the Lost Ark to the New 300 – and Beyond (no, I don’t quite understand the subtitle either)”

    I’m pretty sure that’s actually “From the Lost Ark to the New Zoo – and Beyond”, just written in a font that makes a capital Z look like a 3. (I have noticed that cryptozoologists seem to have a tendency to use strange fonts…)

    Anyway, sounds like an awesome book, albeit with some annoying omissions. I have several questions about animals you mention, but one I have time to type now: why is the Black olm a subspecies of P. anguinus rather than a full species? It seems substantially different enough to be one to me, and it is at least de facto reproductively isolated from the white olm. Is it because differences can be explained by developmental factors rather than genetic distance?

    “the weird, beach-dwelling Pink snake Cryptophis incredibilis

    You’d think that with a name like that Shuker would have loved to include it if he knew about it…

    Link to this
  6. 6. Sordes 8:42 am 02/22/2013

    ” Oh yeah, there are fish and invertebrates too but (sorry) I don’t care much about those.”

    A damned, this illustration of the colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni which I painted for the book was a lot of work, especially as there are quite view references (and many of them have wrong proportions or are photos of collapsed carcasses). I hope you did recognize at least the Laotian rock rat I´ve drawn ;)
    The drawing of Hoplodactylus delcourti was actually not completely new, as it was already in Karl Shuker´s “Alien Zoo” from 2010, but thanks for the credit.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Andreas Johansson 9:47 am 02/22/2013

    [The Linnean system is] liked by many people because it provides a convenient (and easy to remember) book-keeping system for the classification of living things

    Something that ‘s always irked me about the Linnean system (as used in practice in the last century or two) is that it forces you to remember, on top of that, frex, Dinosauria contains Ornithischia, that the former is a superorder and the later an order. And you have to remember it, because the number of named ranks varies, so you can’t just count up from species to find out what it has to be. I sincerely doubt that it would be perceived as easier to remember than rankless systematics by people who came at both innocent of previous exposture to either.

    (Additionally, Linneans cheat by pretending you can get away with only considering the “standard” ranks of phylum, class, order, family, genus, species most of the time. By the time you realize that major taxa like Dinosauria or Vertebrata aren’t at “standard” ranks, you may already be commited to the alleged simplicity.)

    Link to this
  8. 8. BrianL 12:18 pm 02/22/2013

    I didn’t know *Zavattariornis* was all that perplexing anymore, regarding its affinities. The TiF checklist regards it as a corvid fairly close to *Corvus* itself, if I’m not mistaken. I do realise that, in the past, it was occassionally considered a starling.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Cameron McCormick 12:39 pm 02/22/2013

    Homo pongoides… the alleged ‘ape-like man’ named by Bernard Heuvelmans for the Minnesota iceman

    Considering recent developments, I think we can safely drop the “alleged” and just say “model of an ape-like man”.

    nor should the unconfirmed and unidentified giant fish of Lake Hanas

    I wish I could find a full version of this article, but it has been suggested that the giant fish are actually groups of Taimen. Even if this isn’t the case, the phrase “fish tale” comes to mind.

    we all know that the discovery date and formal publication date of a new taxon can be very different things

    For instance, I found that cetaceans described in the 20th century were on average discovered (at least) 28 years before, and that for the 21st century the average balloons up to 55 years. I wonder what the average gap for other groups is, and if it has been widening in recent years due to the ability to detect cryptic species using molecular phylogeny.

    Link to this
  10. 10. John Harshman 1:06 pm 02/22/2013

    Re: Zavattariornis. Just another new species. The fact that it’s a monotypic genus makes it slightly more interesting, but of course that’s an arbitrary decision. Both Sapayoa and Pseudopodoces are more fun, and both were erected in the 20th Century, though P. humilis was described (as Podoces humilis, I think) much earlier. Still, if you want misidentified passerines described in the 20th Century, Sapayoa clearly wins the prize.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Michał 3:41 pm 02/22/2013

    I wish I could find a full version of this article

    This might be the full version.

    Link to this
  12. 12. ggarbino 7:02 pm 02/22/2013

    Amer-anthropoides loysi was even included in the synonyms list of Ateles hybridus ! (Kellogg, R. and Goldman, E. A. 1944. Review of the spider monkeys. Proc. U. S. Natl. Mus. 96: 1–45)

    Link to this
  13. 13. naishd 7:25 pm 02/22/2013

    Thanks for great comments. I’ve made a couple of minor edits to the article in view of comment 5 and others. Time to produce some responses.

    Chris Taylor (comment 2) writes…

    Two fingers skywards to you too, mate.

    Ha ha, thread won (smiley).

    On the featuring of phylogenetic trees (see Dartian’s comment # 4), I’m not asking for phylogenetic diagrams to be included throughout the book; rather, I’m saying that – if you need to show the diversity of life somewhere in your work – you should do so by depicting a labelled tree, not by listing the ranked Linnaean hierarchy (which is what Shuker does).

    More to come…

    Darren

    Link to this
  14. 14. Cameron McCormick 7:37 pm 02/22/2013

    Michał – Much thanks! And thanks to the magic of the internet, I can even sorta understand it.

    Link to this
  15. 15. David Marjanović 8:35 pm 02/22/2013

    OFFS – I have The Lost Ark, and I never noticed the author!!!

    Saolo

    Saola.

    The incredible semi-terrestrial catfish discovered in Manaus by Peter Henderson still has yet to be formally described

    What the fuck!?! *rageflail*

    existing passerine ‘families’ [...] virtually none have turned out to be monophyletic in modern molecular studies

    Wow. I had no idea it was anywhere near that bad.

    Asia’s first plethodontid

    Dead or alive, extant or extinct! Even the hynobiids have a better fossil record – in Europe, from where they’re gone.

    By the time you realize that major taxa like Dinosauria or Vertebrata aren’t at “standard” ranks

    And for most of its history, Dinosauria had no rank at all… Oh, and, keep in mind that the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature has a big gaping hole: above the family group of ranks, most rules don’t apply. Even priority doesn’t. In a way, all names above superfamily rank aren’t actually official – Mammalia just as little as Vertebrata or Olfactores.

    Still, if you want misidentified passerines described in the 20th Century, Sapayoa clearly wins the prize.

    Yep, there’s a reason why the full name is Sapayoa aenigma.

    Link to this
  16. 16. naishd 8:47 pm 02/22/2013

    “Saolo”: silly typo for a very familiar animal, sorry!

    Shuker (2012) does, incidentally, include a brief section on the Sapayoa (pp. 118-119).

    Darren

    Link to this
  17. 17. vdinets 12:06 am 02/23/2013

    It’s interesting how some new species get a lot of fame, while others never do. For example, Nikolsky’s viper, a two feet-long black snake discovered in the 1980-s in Ukraine and later in Romania, is still known only to a few specialists.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Dartian 3:36 am 02/23/2013

    Vladimir:
    It’s interesting how some new species get a lot of fame, while others never do.

    In some cases at least it’s because some ‘new’ animals are just (subjectively) more novel and exciting than others. Consider the the saola and the giant muntjac: they were both discovered at approximately the same time and in the same part of the world. However, the saola made it to the cover of Shuker’s book while the giant muntjac, I bet, was never even considered for that.

    But, undeniably, sometimes it does seem to be simply a question of PR more than anything else.

    Nikolsky’s viper

    Actually, that taxon’s species-level status is still quite controversial. Many authorities (e.g., Joger et al., 1997; Kalyabina-Hauf et al., 2004; Zinenko et al., 2010) prefer to consider it as, at most, subspecifically distinct from the common adder Vipera berus. (Incidentally, as it is undoubtedly a member of the Vipera berus-complex, the preferred English vernacular name of this species is ‘Nikolsky’s adder’.)

    By the way, does the fact that chose Nikolsky’s adder as an example mean that you aren’t reflexively opposed to all cases of ‘elevating-subspecies-to-species’ anymore? ;)

    References:
    Joger, U., Lenk, P., Baran, I., Böhme, W., Ziegler, T., Heidrich, P. & Wink, M. 1997. The phylogenetic position of Vipera barani and of V. nikolskii within the Vipera berus complex. Herpetologia Bonnensis, 185-194.

    Kalyabina-Hauf, S., Schweiger, S., Joger, U., Mayer, W., Orlov, N. & Wink, M. 2004. Phylogeny and systematics of adders (Vipera berus complex). Mertensiella 15, 7-15.

    Zinenko, O., Turcanu, V. & Strugariu, A. 2010. Distribution and morphological variation of Vipera berus nikolskii Vedmederja, Grubant et Rudaeva, 1986 in Western Ukraine, The Republic of Moldova and Romania. Amphibia-Reptilia 31, 51-67.

    Link to this
  19. 19. naishd 6:39 am 02/23/2013

    I wanted to come back to the issue of Zavattariornis. I’m only aware of one molecular study that includes it: Ericson et al. (2005). Zavattariornis is deeply nested within Corvidae according to their maximum likelihood tree for cytochrome b data, being the sister-taxon to a ground-jay + piapiac clade, with magpies being the sister-taxon to the (Zavattariornis + (ground-jay + piapiac)) clade.

    If this is valid, Zavattariornis seems to be part of an Old World, arid grassland-adapted corvid clade. Anyone know of any other phylogenetic studies that include it?

    Ref – -

    Ericson, P. G. P., Jansén, A.-L., Johansson, U. S. & Ekman, J. 2005. Inter-generic relationships of the crows, jays, magpies and related groups (Aves: Corvidae) based on nucleotide sequence data. Journal of Avian Biology 36, 222-234.

    Darren

    Link to this
  20. 20. naishd 6:43 am 02/23/2013

    With reference to comment 18 (re: fame of Saola as opposed to the Giant muntjac), come on: you can understand why the Saola would make the cover of the book. It looks weird and striking while the Giant muntjac is – while interesting – nowhere near as spectacular (it’s essentially “just another muntjac”, despite its large size… no monotypic genus for you, Giant muntjac!).

    Darren

    Link to this
  21. 21. naishd 7:15 am 02/23/2013

    And with reference to Nikolsky’s adder (or Nikolsky’s viper): as a new taxon (that is, whether it’s nested within Vipera berus or not), it would, potentially, have been worthy of inclusion in Shuker’s book. The several recently named members of the adder complex remain of controversial status (another one is the Turkish viper or Baran’s adder V. barani, named in 1984). I think I recall reading that Nikolsky’s adder lives in allopatry sympatry with other members of the V. berus complex, so species-level recognition may really be the way to go.

    Darren

    Link to this
  22. 22. John Harshman 9:55 am 02/23/2013

    existing passerine ‘families’ [...] virtually none have turned out to be monophyletic in modern molecular studies

    Wow. I had no idea it was anywhere near that bad.

    Worse. Only about half of genera were monophyletic too. Wood warblers (Parulidae) are the most amusing case, as the only monophyletic genera turned out to be the monotypic ones. Which is why Dendroica is now Setophaga.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Dartian 10:01 am 02/23/2013

    Darren:
    you can understand why the Saola would make the cover of the book. It looks weird and striking while the Giant muntjac is – while interesting – nowhere near as spectacular (it’s essentially “just another muntjac”

    Yes, but… that was exactly my point.

    I think I recall reading that Nikolsky’s adder lives in allopatry with other members of the V. berus complex, so species-level recognition may really be the way to go.”

    Allopatry? Don’t you mean sympatry? Anyway, have you read the references I cited above, particularly Zinenko et al. (2010)? The systematics of these snakes are quite complex – some data even suggest that Nikolsky’s adders are not monophyletic. (I hasten to add that I have no particular dog in this fight; I’m just pointing out that the taxonomic status of Nikolsky’s adder is, as I said, controversial.)

    Link to this
  24. 24. naishd 10:39 am 02/23/2013

    Yes, I meant sympatry, thanks. No, I haven’t read all the papers yet: thanks much for listing them.

    Darren

    Link to this
  25. 25. vdinets 1:12 pm 02/23/2013

    Dartian:
    does the fact that chose Nikolsky’s adder as an example mean that you aren’t reflexively opposed to all cases of ‘elevating-subspecies-to-species’ anymore?

    No, it means that I only read the original description (which sounded really impressive) and didn’t follow up on later papers :-)

    Darren: as far as I remember, V. nikolskii is sympatric only with V. ursini, not with V. berus. Will have to read the papers now.

    Giant muntjac, if well-painted, looks even more striking than saola. It is not that distinctive from other muntjacs, but how many people in the general public know how striking all mutjacs look?

    Link to this
  26. 26. Christopher Taylor 12:54 am 02/24/2013

    Other studies with Zavattariornis: in the supplementary trees for Jetz et al. (2012), it’s sister to Pica, and the two together are sister to Nucifraga + Corvus. Caveats: (a) I don’t know the support values (if provided), and (b) I’m still trying to understand just how Jetz et al. generated their trees. As far as I can follow, they used prior studies to assign taxa to pre-defined clades, then generated trees for each clade separately?

    Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444-448.

    Link to this
  27. 27. BrianL 4:57 am 02/24/2013

    For what it’s worth, I do think the massive amount of non-monophyletic ‘families’ and ‘genera’ in passeriforms is excusable when you only have morphological studies to go on (and few of those at that). Passeriforms are a huge clade that’s not particularly known for its diagnostical osteological diversity after all. That being said, I wonder how thoroughly such diagnostic morphological features were actually searched for in the past. And to the credit of earlier authors, the placement of various taxa was openly considered dubious or a bone of contention. I don’t think any author dealing with the subject ever claimed to present a flawless classification.

    That passeriform phylogeny is a far, far more tangled web than initially imagined is definitely true, though. The untangling seems to be mostly a matter of molecular studies.

    Given the sheer amount of living taxa that seem to be the sole or near sole survivors of their pretty old respective ‘families’ and the difficulty of recognising the more precise identity of fossil passerines, one can only guess how many additional ones have simply gone extinct without leaving a trace or being simply unrecognisable as such.

    ‘Fossils are of no more use here.’

    Link to this
  28. 28. farandfew 7:14 am 02/25/2013

    Actually the giant muntjac isn’t really much of a giant. Large-antlered muntjac is the preferred common name among those working on the species.

    i.e. among those people who won’t work on Saola just because they can’t find any :-)

    Really I think it’s a shame that Linnaeus never got round to developing a formal system of determining a species’ coolness in the eyes of the Lord.

    Link to this
  29. 29. vdinets 8:30 am 02/25/2013

    farandfew: I know it’s not much of a giant, but (a) you can’t tell from a book cover painting, anyway, and (b) all mutjacs have really cool faces that few people take time to have a good look at.

    Link to this
  30. 30. Jerzy v. 3.0. 9:41 am 02/25/2013

    Looks like interesting book!

    I wonder if some species mentioned in HMW are mentioned – like new mountain olingo, or Vietnamese Otter Civet known from one skin which is truly a zoological mystery.

    Link to this
  31. 31. David Marjanović 11:10 am 02/25/2013

    Passeriforms are a huge clade that’s not particularly known for its diagnostical osteological diversity after all. That being said, I wonder how thoroughly such diagnostic morphological features were actually searched for in the past.

    I was gonna say… :-) It’s scary how much the skeleton is generally ignored by vertebrate neontologists. I’m about to do a morphological analysis of salamandrid phylogeny because we have a somewhat bizarre Oligocene newt here in the museum, and information is really hard to come by.

    Besides, molecular phylogenetics is much less work even if you have to start by sequencing genes, let alone if it’s all on GenBank already. That’s why the first morphological phylogeny of mammals with a reasonably large character sample came out a few weeks ago, and why it has such a disappointing taxon sample. The next smaller morphological phylogeny of placentals is an unpublished PhD thesis from 2009; that’s right, it’s an entire thesis, and a US one at that (so, it wasn’t done in 3 years).

    I don’t think any author dealing with the subject ever claimed to present a flawless classification.

    Unfortunately, Wetmore (1960) was widely treated as such for decades anyway.

    Really I think it’s a shame that Linnaeus never got round to developing a formal system of determining a species’ coolness in the eyes of the Lord.

    I guess he thought it was all obvious anyway, as he did with *sigh* so many other things. But he did write things like this:

    “Reptiles are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale color, cartilaginous skeleton, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom; wherefore their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them.”

    (“Cartilaginous skeleton” must be a reference to his confusion of “reptiles”, amphibians, sturgeons, lampreys, and so on; “not [...] many of them” – yeah, dude, that’s what comes from lumping all caudates into Lacerta salamandra! Oh, suuuuure, you named Siren lacertina with A. Österdam in 1766… that makes two recognized species.)

    Link to this
  32. 32. Lars Dietz 12:38 pm 02/25/2013

    I agree that osteology and anatomy in general has been mostly neglected in passerines. The great works on bird anatomy and classification of the late 19th century (Fürbringer, Gadow, Beddard) mostly were concerned with working out the relationships between the major groups of birds, and relationships within oscines were very little discussed. It was often remarked back then that passerines were osteologically so uniform that they should be classified as a single family if there weren’t so many of them. Now it turns out that some of the unexpected placements shown by molecular phylogeny (Pseudopodoces as a parid, Hypocryptadius as a passerid etc.) actually do have osteological support, it’s just that no one really looked at it before.

    “Unfortunately, Wetmore (1960) was widely treated as such for decades anyway.”
    I don’t think anyone really claimed that was flawless. It was more like “We’re never going to figure out the true phylogeny anyway, so we’ll just use the most widely known classification”. After all, the Peters checklist was organised according to the Wetmorean classification, and it was also used by the AOU and other societies. And the suggested alternatives (such as Verheyen’s classifications, and Beecher’s classification of oscines) weren’t really better. By the way, Wetmore had published very similar versions of the classification since 1930, and it’s essentially just Gadow’s (1893) classification with most of the suborders elevated to orders and some other changes, so the sequence would already have been familiar to ornithologists.

    Link to this
  33. 33. vdinets 1:02 pm 02/25/2013

    David: what a nice quote! thanks.

    Link to this
  34. 34. BrianL 3:05 pm 02/25/2013

    @Lars Dietz: Your mentioning of Wetmore elevating Gadow’s suborders to full orders reminds me of the avian classification by Wolters. It seems the latter only published in German and hence, his classification has (nearly?) exclusively been used in German publications. Wolters certainly went to extremes in raising Wetmore’s suborders into orders (Sagittariiformes, Alciformes, Anhimiformes,…) and what were at best subfamilies into full families (Melopsittacidae, Treronidae, Daptriidae…) while also elevating numerous subgenera and species into full genera. This thorough splitting was offset by what seemed like overzealous lumping at other, but far less numerous, occasions (No splitting of *Ara* into multiple genera as has afterwards become the fashion, for example). Perhaps ironically, some of his extreme splitting has been vindicated by recent studies, if the TiF checklist is anything to go by. Thankfully no Alciformes or Anhimiformes though, I’d say.

    Link to this
  35. 35. Lars Dietz 4:46 am 02/26/2013

    BrianL: Yes, Wolters was a rather extreme splitter. Basically, he wanted all his taxa to be strictly monophyletic and therefore split all orders that might turn out to be paraphyletic. His checklist “Die Vogelarten der Erde” (1975-82), where he published his classification, had a tentative cladogram with lots of dashed lines to indicate alternative placements. Even then, some of his orders have turned out to be polyphyletic (e. g. he kept traditional Pelecaniformes). I think his classification is still used by some German aviculturalists. He published an even more extreme version in his 1983 booklet “Die Vögel Europas im System der Vögel” (summarized http://www.tierundnatur.de/vart-int.htm), which seems to be even less known.
    Stresemann’s classification (I think slightly different versions were published from the 1930s to the 50s) was rather similar, also having about 50 orders, with most of the “gruiform” and “coraciiform” families as separate orders. Stresemann was an extreme “phylopessimist”, who ended his 1959 review of avian systematics with the conclusion: “Science ends where comparative morphology, comparative physiology, comparative ethology have failed us after nearly 200 years of efforts. The rest is silence.”
    As for the more recent developments, yes some splitting is necessary if you want to keep ranked nomenclature at all, but of course much of it is subjective. E. g. John Boyd splits Caprimulgiformes into multiple orders, when one could also lump them with Apodiformes to get a monophyletic group.

    Link to this
  36. 36. BrianL 8:53 am 02/26/2013

    @ Lars Dietz:
    Thank you for that additional information. I didn’t realise Wolters used this classification to be on the safe side when it came to clades that just could be paraphyletic. I used to think overall ‘distinctness’ was his justification.

    Your suggestion of simply lumping all ‘caprimulgiforms’ and apodiforms does remind me that, even though I tend to prefer splitting, I find such concepts as Nyctibiiformes and Podargiformes somewhat extreme. I’d actually favor your approach of lumping in this case, but perhaps that’s because I’m not all that well-versed in caprimulgiforms and apodiforms so I might not appreciate their individual distinctness ‘enough’.

    Link to this
  37. 37. David Marjanović 10:26 am 02/27/2013

    It was often remarked back then that passerines were osteologically so uniform that they should be classified as a single family if there weren’t so many of them. Now it turns out that some of the unexpected placements shown by molecular phylogeny (Pseudopodoces as a parid, Hypocryptadius as a passerid etc.) actually do have osteological support, it’s just that no one really looked at it before.

    Reminds me of the (very recent) days when people thought ceratopsids and hadrosaurs and ankylosaurids all had the exact same postcranium, with all diagnostic characters found exclusively in the skull. That was another self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It was more like “We’re never going to figure out the true phylogeny anyway, so we’ll just use the most widely known classification”.

    Yes! The pinnacle of phylopessimism! That’s how I should have put it, thanks. :-)

    By the way, Wetmore had published very similar versions of the classification since 1930, and it’s essentially just Gadow’s (1893) classification with most of the suborders elevated to orders and some other changes, so the sequence would already have been familiar to ornithologists.

    Also the pinnacle of tradition inhibiting science! *facepalm*

    David: what a nice quote! thanks.

    I found the translation here.

    Stresemann was an extreme “phylopessimist”, who ended his 1959 review of avian systematics with the conclusion:

    Wow. Good quotes in there for illustrations of phylopessimism:

    “In many cases the systematist who wants to place an aberrant species of song bird is essentially forced to rely on intuition and courage. I am amazed at the courage which is apparent in some of the most recent attempts to classify the Oscines, for I am one of those timid souls in whose vocabulary the word ‘perhaps’ occurs very frequently. My own system contains therefore many monotypic genera and monotypic families of Oscines.”

    “In view of the continuing absence of trustworthy information on the relationship of the highest categories of birds to each other it becomes strictly a matter of convention how to group them into orders. Science ends where comparative morphology, comparative physiology, comparative ethology have failed us after neary [sic] 200 years of efforts. The rest is silence.”

    I find such concepts as Nyctibiiformes and Podargiformes somewhat extreme

    Simply stop worrying about ranks.

    Link to this
  38. 38. michaels07 6:37 pm 02/28/2013

    I am interested in all new species from Mammals to fish. I find the diversity of life fascinating.Karl Shuker`s passion for the undiscovered and his books and articles helps me too endure going on the internet on a daily basis.

    Link to this
  39. 39. Pristichampsus 5:32 am 03/8/2013

    Hi Darren, it’s Tim Morris.

    I noticed that when you mentioned the illustrators of the book, you failed to mention that I was the illustrator of quite afew pictures. I know this probably wasn’t intentional, you may not have even noticed that I illustrated for the book. It just feels abit slighting that I have worked on that book, visit the blog regularly, collaborated with you numerous times, yet I miss out on being publicised in such a popular blog.

    You may have a reason for this, I am aware you are still working on the squamozoic, which we collaborated on. I suppose you may have spared my name here because you’re holding out for the squamozoic posts you will do later.

    Please do respond to my question, this sounds like an honest mistake, to be frank. Anyhow, no animosity between either of us.

    Link to this
  40. 40. Pristichampsus 7:04 am 03/10/2013

    Great stuff, Darren. Thanks for putting in a mention of my illustrations, I liked the pink Iguana pic too. I’m glad the simple “colored sketch” style appeals to you, that’s mostly what I used in the book.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X