[Taxacom] article on the decline of taxonomists

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Tue Sep 7 19:18:26 CDT 2010

Nice article. It makes the familiar point that a lot of traditional taxonomists are now retired. A few years back there was talk here in Australia of drip-feeding retired taxonomists like me with small Federal grants, to encourage us oldies to stay productive. I suggested a peak body to lobby for this idea, the Federation of Australian Retired Taxonomists, but the acronym...

The lead-in to the article is about the forensic value of taxonomy. I've only once been approached about 'forensic myriapodology':

A rice producer got a complaint from a rice repackager/retailer in a city hundreds of km away. A customer in the city had found a shrivelled up centipede in the retailer's package. The rice producer contacted me because it hoped I could show that the centipede had crawled into the rice and died at the city end of the supply chain, not at the producer's.

Unfortunately for the producer, the centipede - which was still easily identifiable - was a species found at both locations. Population-genetic differences might have helped, but I'm not sure that DNA taxonomy work on centipede mummies, and in any case the producer was only willing to pay AUD$50 for the ID.
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
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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