[Taxacom] What's missing from this picture?

pbostock at ozemail.com.au pbostock at ozemail.com.au
Sun Sep 6 07:47:35 CDT 2009

Quoted from the glossy document cited by Bob:

"A “flesh-eating” pitcher plant Nepenthes tenax 
Discovered in 2006 in northern Cape York, Queensland the Nepenthes tenax
can grow a maximum height of 100 cm with vines exceeding to 25 cm high.
Nepenthes tenax is regarded as exceptional specie of pitcher flower since
others can only grow to a maximum height of 15 cm. 

Botanical experts believe that this flower can actually consume small rats,
mice, lizards and even birds. This lowland species of tropical pitcher
plant is
native to northern Queensland, Australia. This specie is the third Nepenthes
species recorded in Australia and is the country’s second endemic species."

I refer interested parties to Austrobaileya 7(2): 319-324 (2006) viz.
"Aerial pitchers infundibular ... up to 110 mm high and 20 mm wide" and
"Nepenthes tenax is a diminutive plant, with free-standing, erect stems up
to 1 m in length and pitchers rarely exceeding 15 cm in height."

Sensational journalism rarely seems to be effective in the botanical world,
especially so when the original description seems to have been so very
poorly understood. Oh, and the Courier Mail in Queensland illustrated this
story with a photo of a helmet orchid, genus Corysanthes (aka Corybas),
another species covered in 'Australia's Living Treasures 2009'!


Original Message:
From: Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Date: Sun, 6 Sep 2009 21:54:58 +1000
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] What's missing from this picture?

Here in Australia we celebrate National Threatened Species Day every 7
September. (Don't blame me, I'm just stating a fact.) A media release for
this special day from World Wildlife Fund Australia has been picked up by
the news services (e.g.
, and you can find the full glossy release at http://www.wwf.org.au/

A quote from the release: 'In the last decade at least 1300 new species
have been discovered across Australia'

Sounds low? Well, it decodes as 1072 plants, 195 fish, 74 reptiles, 13
amphibians and 7 mammals. The release then highlights these finds in the
order (mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants, fish), which is no doubt the
result of careful market research (frogs are popular biodiversity icons in

All of us working on non-WWF taxa can only wonder where we went wrong.
Maybe I should stop saying I study 'invertebrates', which is after all a
monstrously paraphyletic grouping. I'm happy to report, though, that our
major public broadcaster has put up a gallery of threatened species with
inverts as 5 of 12 images:

Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html


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