Taxonomy in the popular media

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Tue Jan 14 09:24:02 CST 1997

At 08:17 AM 01-14-97 -0500, Richard Jensen wrote:
>How about the "Little Shop of Horrors?"  :-)!  Just kidding.

If I recall, Roger Corman's original "Audrey" was stated to be a cross
between a butterwort (Pinguicula sp., Lentibulariaceae, Asteridae) and a
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula, Droseraceae, Dilleniidae).  Inter-subclass
hybrids?  Well, what do you expect on a $20,000 budget?

Speaking of distant hybridizations, from an phylogenetic perspective, the
worst are story lines (such as the much beloved Star Trek) that include
human-alien hybridizations, a la Mr. Spock.  Try explaining to a class of
students reared on such things that they have more genetic material in
common with pond scum than they do with a Vulcan, that they'd have a better
chance hybridizing with a petunia than with a humanoid from another world.
Draw them a cladogram, actually TWO cladograms: the Earth one and the Vulcan
one.  They still don't get it (overly impressed by the parallelisms in gross
morphology, I guess).

>More seriously, any good accout of the Lindbergh kidnapping will  include
>the role of a wood anatomist who applied his taxonomic knowledge in
>demonstrating that wood found at the scene matched wood found at Bruno
>Hauptman's house (the ladder, I believe).

I've seen a botany textbook with a full discussion of this as a sidebar to
the discussion of wood anatomy, but I can't place it just now.  Can anybody

Thomas G. Lammers
Department of Botany                     Classification, Nomenclature,
Field Museum of Natural History          Phylogeny and Biogeography
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive       of the Campanulaceae
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
fax:        312-427-2530

        "The naming of things by their right names is the beginning of wisdom."

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