[Taxacom] selling names to save the planet

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Tue Sep 18 05:19:30 CDT 2007

A new twist to selling species names. This time it is not the taxonomist who sells his fish, but a huge NGO, Conservation International  and Monaca-Asia Society are selling fish names for a good cause.


I would like to see how much money is feeding back to the actual underlying systematics, not just cool expeditions, and with that, how much money is disappearing for other purposes. Since Conservaton International is member of the Conservation Commons, I also wonder, what CI is doing to provide open access to not only the publication, but the entire data collected during this and in fact all of their expedition. A benchmark we actually could measure is when such CI data is accessible through GBIF. I will get back on this in 6 months.







Published online: 13 September 2007;

Fish for sale

Non-profits auction species names for conservation.



Over the years, philanthropists have lent their names to art galleries, schools and hospitals. But in a watershed auction, the world's rich will be able to add their names to several new species of fish — all in the name of charity. 

On Thursday 20 September, an auction to name ten new species of fish is being held by the Monaco-based Monaco-Asia Society, a non-profit organization devoted to Asian causes and Conservation International, based in Arlington, Virginia. The fish are a few of the dozens discovered by Conservation International during expeditions to reefs off the coast of Indonesia's Papua Province in 2006. 

Bidders will arrive from around the world for a gala at Monaco's Oceanographic Museum, which sits on a bluff high above the Mediterranean Ocean. Prince Albert II will be in attendance, and auction house Christie's will oversee the bidding pro-bono. 

This isn't the first auction for a species name. For example, in 2005 an anonymous online bidder won the right to name a new kind of Bolivian monkey for a charitable donation of US$650,000. But this is the first time that multiple species will be auctioned in a single event, according to Monaco-Asia Society president Francesco Bongiovanni. 

There's nothing wrong with naming an animal after the rich and famous, says Andrew Polaszek, executive secretary at the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature in London. The only technical requirements, he says, are that the name must have a generic and specific part and be published in a paper or monograph — something that Conservation International will presumably do. Species are routinely named after famous scientists, and one species of cave beetle is even named after Adolf Hitler. He says that "you can essentially name a species anything you want".

Bongiovanni says he hopes the gala will raise US$1.2-1.4 million for further expeditions and conservation efforts in the region. But is it fair to name a species after a wealthy patron, rather than the scientist who discovered or described it? Bongiovanni says yes — especially because it is all for the greater good of the fish. "At the end of the day," he says, "these species need names."


Dr. Donat Agosti

Science Consultant

Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History and Naturmuseum der Burgergemeinde Bern

Email: agosti at amnh.org

Web: http://antbase.org <http://antbase.org/> 

Blog:  <http://biodivcontext.blogspot.com/> http://biodivcontext.blogspot.com/

Skype: agostileu

CV:  <http://antbase.org/agosticv_2003.html> http://antbase.org/agosticv_2003.html

Dalmaziquai 45

3005 Bern


ჵ-31-351 7152


More information about the Taxacom mailing list