$pecie$ and money

Luis Diego Gomez ldgomez at NS.OTS.AC.CR
Sun Mar 8 15:35:06 CST 1998

I do not intend to re-open the previous discussion about "selling" species
for money for "worthy causes", but as a historical factoid, I wish to share
with you, Taxacomers, the information on what possibly is the most expensive
weevil known to our own species: Metamasius wolfensohni.

This Costa Rican beetle has been named after Mr. James Wolfenshon, President
of the World Bank, just for breaking the news to INBio's Director Rodrigo
Gamez, that the World Bank will give INBIo ("National" Institute of
Biodiversity, Costa Rica),US$7 million. The news is the top of frontpage
banner in the largest local daily, La Nacion of Saturday 7th March 1997.

The news read that said amount will back up the inventorying of Costa Rican
biodiversity in INBio's "new" National Inventorying Programme, a sort of the
now defunct ATBI at smaller scale and, rather than concentrated in an area
of the country, covering more ground.

Dropping aside the potential development of an international market for
species run by enterprising taxonomists, it will be very interesting to
follow up on the actual results of this considerable injection of monies and
establish, say seven years from now (at US$1 mi./year) how many new species
of Metmasius and other organisms result from the inventory. It will give us
a very approximate datum on the actual dollar value/species, the
person-hours/new taxa, and other baseline information for the burgeoning
commerce of new names.

There is in the news a very practical lesson for institutional fundraisers:
instruct your taxonomists to set aside a few new species of their respective
groups in reserve, so that the top officials can produce an impressive
patronym in the shortest possible time. Just for scale and in a phylogenetic
sense of values, if a weevil can be priced at $7 mi, the higher you go in
the evolutionary ladder the bigger the funds raised should be. An
international committee should oversee, that inflation and speculation do
not cause havoc in the species commodity markets. A caveat for excessive use
of this gimmick is that doing it too often will greatly reduce the glamour
of having something named after you and get a tax deduction as well.

Some of us taxonomist may wish to wonder if the expert who identifies the
new taxon should get a raise, perhaps? or tenure, maybe? One can get a Chair
named after you in a fairly decent university at a starting price of about
$1 mi. For $7 mi. you could actually demand a corner office in the upper
floors as well as a few other fringe benefits.
But what if the taxonomist is not one of your employees but is just visiting
the collection from abroad? Should that person or his home institution get a
slice of the pie? Food for thought.

Luis Diego Gomez
Academia Nacional de Ciencias, Costa Rica
Director, Estacion Las Cruces & Wilson Botanic Garden
Organization for Tropical Studies, Inc.
Mail ldgomez at ns.ots.ac.cr
Facsimile: ++ (506)- 773-3665
Telephone: ++ (506)- 773-4004

P.O.Box 73- 8257 Coto Brus, Costa Rica

Interlink 341. POBox 025635
Miami, FL 33102-5635

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