Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NPR Tackles Linneaus

Linnaeus, if you remember your biological history, is the man responsible for the binomial classification scheme that we now use to taxonomically place animals and plants. As Robert Krulwich writes, on NPR:
"It is difficult to overstate the importance of this," write biologists Sandra Knapp and Quentin Wheeler in their 2008 book Letters to Linnaeus. The great Swede's classifications, they say, rank with the invention of the internet.

And yet the very people who should take Linnaeus most seriously — the research scientists who discover and name new species of life — have all kinds of fun playing with Linneaus' system.
As Krulwich notes, however, there has been some fun at Linnaeus' expense:
But recently my collection of names has been updated by Professor Chris Impey in his new book How It Ends. Here’s Chris’ list of favorites:

He found a beetle named Agra vation and another one called Agra phobia. (These are their real scientific names.)

There is a pine tree called Pinus rigidus.

There is a mollusk named Abra cadabra.

He found an extinct rat-kangaroo called Wakie wakie.
I once heard a story about a man who discovered a new species of snail and, to spite his major professor, who's name was Hodgekiss, called it Hodgekisseanus.

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