[Taxacom] manuscript name question

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Fri Oct 9 09:14:11 CDT 2015


On the Nessie side of things I can describe an experience with an
'organism' that should not have existed and could not have been
substantiated by a photo alone (I don't think I have mentioned this on the
list in the past, but apologies if I have). Some years ago I received a
call at my museum from a person who said that they had found this strange,
apparently dead, organism in their backyard. They described it as
comprising this clear gelatinous goo about the diameter of a small broken
egg on their lawn. They also said that it pulsated with light. They were
wondering what sort of organism it could possibly be. I was stumped. They
sent photos. Perhaps I could have described a new alien species from that
photo. The photo certainly showed that the 'organism' existed. I was
intrigued enough to offer to visit and see for myself and indeed I found
this clear blob of jelly-like tissue in the grass and it was pulsating with
a faint light. Not sure what else to do I used what is probably one of the
oldest scientific implements in human history. I took a stick and gave it a
poke. I'm sure this method has sometimes had some disastrous results in
human history, but this time nothing bad happened. What I did find was that
within the goo was a solid core from which the light was originating. With
further careful poking this core was finally dislodged. It turned out to be
a small electronic device and with some discussion with the people we
figured out that it was a degraded form of one of those strobe light
bouncing balls for children. Out in the heat of the open lawn the elastic
gelatinous material had degraded to a goo and make it unrecognizable to the
people that called me. Mystery solved and no new alien species,
unfortunately!

John Grehan

On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 4:58 AM, Mike Sadka <mike.sadka at nhm.ac.uk> wrote:

> > Fast and loose is a slippery slope to aliens and Nessie.
>
> Too late to avoid that!  Nessie was named from a photograph by Sir Peter
> Scott in 1975...
>
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Scott#Loch_Ness_Monster
>
> ________________________________________
> From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of JF Mate [
> aphodiinaemate at gmail.com]
> Sent: 09 October 2015 03:00
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] manuscript name question
>
> Dean:
>
> “There seems to be a negative reaction to the term "dead bodies" for
> animals
> that are preserved in museum collection. I find that curious.”
>
> I have never seen this term used in journals, which makes me suspect
> it was used as click-bait. It is not a direct way to explain things to
> “non-native” speakers, it is a catchy title plonked there in the hopes
> that BBC or CNN will report the paper (as they sometimes do). But
> publicity in a matter like this could have unintended consequences. It
> is already hard enough collecting “dead bodies”, imagine if you give
> them (PETA, WWF, any bureaucratic body,...) ammo through scientific
> legitimacy.
>
> “As to whether it's worth putting a name to a distinctively new species,
> isn't that rather the whole point of nomenclature?”
>
> You misunderstand me Dean. The point I am trying to make is that, if a
> particular species is doomed, keeping a couple of pictures is pretty
> much useless other than serving to name something. Nomenclature is
> important because it is the bedrock of something (biology, ecology,
> etc). Otherwise it is just a rock, a list of names (and you wouldn´t
> even be certain that the list is correct nor have the means to check).
> And physcial specimena or, lacking that, tissue samples, contain the
> information that gives “value” to the name.
>
> With a physical specimen I can not only verify the original hypothesis
> in the future, but also access a large amount of information
> pertaining to the species itself (biology, phylogenetics, feeding,
> etc). With a photograph I only have pixels, and they will be the same
> pixels forever.Its value as a store of information diminishes with the
> passage of time whereas physical specimens become more valuable (DNA,
> X- ray microtomography are just two recent examples I can think of).
> Photographs should be, IMO, a last resort when faced with no other
> choice, and to me this fly isn´t such a case. Fast and loose is a
> slippery slope to aliens and Nessie.
>
> Best
>
> Jason
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