[Taxacom] Data query, ETC.

Walker, Ken kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au
Tue Jun 25 18:51:06 CDT 2013

Finally John,

> images that come to attention might represent an unnammed taxon

Correction from "might" to "have" see here:  http://io9.com/5933986/this-new-species-of-insect-was-discovered-on-flickr

> The image itself is not science as it contains no information

In 1983, a new species of Australian bee was described as Euhesma tubulifera .  This is a short tongue bee belonging to the family Colletidae but it is an obligate feeder on the plant genus Calothamnus whose flowers hide their nectaries at the end of a long, deep corolla: see http://researchdata.museum.vic.gov.au/padil/bowerbird/2013-06-26_0930.png

Undeterred, this bee species has remarkably elongated its mouthpart palps (hence its species name!) to form a fused tube resembling a drinking straw almost the entire body length of the bee itself while its tongue (ie. glossa) remained short and blunt: see arrowed length of fused palps: http://researchdata.museum.vic.gov.au/padil/bowerbird/2013-06-26_0927.png

We had presumed that the bee used these elongated mouthparts to reach the deeply hidden nectaries of Calothamnus and through capillary action, the nectar flowed up the fused palpal tube to the short, blunt glossa.  Nothing more happened from the "scientific" point of view.

Then in 2011, a group of retired, amateur bee photographers used web-published bee distribution maps to plot a "field trip" for themselves to the other side of Australia to photograph some of these "special" bees that had remarkable mouthpart modifications.  They did not contact any of the "bee scientists" but just accessed our published data on the web.

On Nov 7, 2011, one of them photographed E. tubulifera which showed it clearly using its tube how we had predicted see: http://researchdata.museum.vic.gov.au/padil/bowerbird/2013-06-26_0935.png

"The image itself is not science as it contains no information".  I think this picture does contain valuable scientific information.  The image taker had done the necessary research to maximum her chances of finding the bee - let alone photograph it.  Her photo completed the scientific knowledge circle for this species.

The image was geotagged with GPS and date data and was entered into our database along with a range of impressive images.

Does "Citizen Science" offer any values to "Science".  If nothing else, it is getting non-scientists to use the outputs of "scientific" research - in this case taxonomic ... God forbid!  (:->!


From: John Grehan [mailto:calabar.john at gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 25 June 2013 11:15 PM
To: Walker, Ken
Cc: Chris Thompson; Frank.Krell at dmns.org; dpwijesinghe at yahoo.com; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Data query, ETC.


Your points are well taken insofar as practicalities go. Certainly one cannot kill every this or that organism when it comes to the larger bodied species. Where identification is regarded as fairly straightforward one might take visuals on trust, but whether its science or not might be another matter. What happens, for example, if a supposed single species of koala becomes two? All those visuals for distribution are problematic if not uninformative for science.

Yes, images that come to attention might represent an unnammed taxon, but then that is where the science comes in. The image itself is not science as it contains no information until verified in some way. So even though there is emphasis on 'science' in 'citizen science' I wonder how much of it is science as such.

I have a photo of a koala in the forests of Borneo. So I might say. At what point does that photo become science?

John Grehan

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