[Taxacom] Happy Taxonomist Appreciation Day!

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Tue Mar 19 16:24:17 CDT 2019

Wonderful!  And in that context, I couldn't resist sharing a poem written by John Earle for John E. "Jack" Randall (among the all-time champion fish namers -- arguably the top). The poem was written in 1996, when Jack "retired".  Yet 23 years later, at age 94, he continues to describe new species of fishes, with more to come.

It's long, but it's good...and lots of inside nods to ichthyology and taxonomy.

Old Adam of Genesis fame
Was said to start the naming game.
He saw the beasts which God created,
Perceived a need and cogitated,
Then called one “dog”, another “cat”
And “camel”, “housefly”, “frog”, and “rat”.
When all was done Eve said ’twas dandy,
And truthfully these names were handy.
Thus Noah when he filled his ark
Invited Dogs, not “beasts which bark”.
Why if Hebrews could speak glottal fractals,
We’d still today have Pterodactyls.

Since Eden lay between two rivers
Reef fish names had other givers.
Poor Adam didn’t know his wrasse
>From āholehole or sea bass.
So who named reef fish you might ask?
Our man Jack Randall took that task.

Jack started scuba way back when
’Twas wooden tanks and iron men.
Before C-cards had made the scene
Or dive computers and neoprene,
Nikonos cameras, BCDs,
Pink masks and fins to ladies please.

With sodden sweatshirt, chilled to bone,
Doubly-hosed Jack dove alone
>From shallow reef to Twilight Zone
And everywhere found fish UNKNOWN.
His mission grew from epiphany—
To name these fishes of the sea.

Jack’s modesty cannot be silenced
He builds upon the works of giants.
Carl Linné of Systema fame
Gave fish (and himself) a Latin name.
French poissonists flocked to science’s aid,
Cuvier, Quoy, Gaimard, Lacépède.
Deutch fischwissenschaft marched as well
Mit Bloch, Schneider, Günther, und Rüppell.
With what they had some went quite far,
Like David Jordan, super-Starr.

But greatest was Pieter Bleeker
Who must have got help from Der Maker.
Our wise Dutch doctor’s justly famed.
Five hundred coral reef fish named
>From fishes bought from fishermen,
Studied and drawn, descriptions penned.

>From Java to the Celebes
He missed few species in the seas
With dry-boot ichthyology.
So things remained a century
'Till now with new technology,
A kindred soul saw Bleeker’s vision,
And dove in to complete his mission.
In fact it might be fairly stated
Pieter’s been reincarnated.
Who is this masked man? Here’s a clue:
His name has seven letters too.

Jack stands on shoulders of these men,
Like Brousonnet, Valenciennes,
And Forsskål, lost in the Red Sea
Furthering Ichthyology.
But none were divers, so none could see
A reef’s full fishy panoply.
To revise and put their work on track—
Another job for (you guessed it) Jack.

Jack’s scope is large. To be specific
His lab is named Indo-Pacific.
There he works, black rubber clad
With gear to make a Ninja glad:
>From powerheads of Jove-like Thunder
To teensy spears that make you wonder.
>From formalin foul to dainty pins
For fluffing tiny Trimma fins.

With poison, nets, and spears of wire
The fishy body count climbs higher.
No species cryptic, small, or sly
Escapes the Caranx randalli.

Fearsome sharks all turn and flee
This predator of higher degree.
Herr Doktor Death will even own
To nuking reefs with rotenone.

All done of course in Science’s name,
And done so well it brings Jack fame.
Of bold techniques let praise be sung.
Like testing toxins on his tongue,
Or (in admiration we’re struck dumb)
Plotosus venom with his thumb.
Thus vile taste and searing pain
Become a scientific gain.

His camera woes have never ended.
The god of this he’s most offended.
Leaks and misfires are just a test
He surmounts to become the best.
With manual focus SLR
He coaxes fish to be the star
Of learned paper or magazine,
Then squirts his stars with Quinaldine.

But don’t recoil in shocked emotion,
This really is a great promotion.
These fish, who now have done their all,
Will swim forever in alcohol.
The glitterati of their race,
Such holotypes have pride of place.
Yes, museums are the place to be
When you’re too important for the sea.

As a diver Jack’s so able
Not for him the diving table.
On expeditions he’s a pleasure
With wit and charm we’ve come to treasure.
Of enthusiasm have no doubts,
He has more than a troop of scouts.
As empty tanks get piled high
Others may falter, Jack’s still spry.
His motto is the day’s not done
If air remains in even one.
He searches in the cylinder bin
That last full tank we’ve all hidden.
And heading home we hear his rhyme
“So many fish, so little time”.

Lab session over and home again
Jack Randall does the work of ten.
In science there’s no sight so mighty
As the Randall curriculum vitae.
In truth we will not see its equal
Till evolution has a sequel.
>From popular books to weighty tomes
It only lacks a book of poems,
And that because no one has patent
A way to make fish rhyme in Latin.

His species list you can’t surmount,
Eight hundred named at latest count!
(We’ve kindly left anonymous
Those few since found synonymous)
At even the most remote atoll
Jack dove there first and got ’em all.
To find new species on your own
You’ll have to plumb the Twilight Zone,
Or travel distant space to grope a
Sea upon the moon Europa.

Enroute you might see swimming by
Some author’s species randalli.
Lubbock, Allen, Hoese, Steene
Thus laud the Randall name machine,
Which gives us species names like bellus,
(Such poetry can make one jealous),
And genus Ego, big of head,
Rhodonotus, whose back is red.
’90s names like femininus,
Xutha, falco, longipinnis.
We’re in such awe we won’t ask why
It’s Pseudojuloides atavai.
Poor Jerry and Ross are left in dust
With Dischistodus pseudochrysopoecilus.

So give us more we fans all cry.
We need a Blenny goodmani.
Why not something fresh and zany?
Scatophagus sodamninsaini?
If Island-style’s the way to go,
Might I suggest ChaetoDon Ho?
Name one for all, both he and she.
For moi, I’ll take a family.

No man’s an island standing alone.
Helen helps to answer the phone,
Find esoteric camera parts,
And lend his works her proofing arts,
Edit Indo-Pacific Fishes,
And feed our man his favorite dishes.

Arnold, Lori, and Richard too
Help to support his pickled zoo
Of fishes, where you now can see ’em
Lining shelves in the Museum.
In alcohol they seem to thrive.
Jack brings ’em back (almost) alive.

Though standing on Olympian peak
Jack’s humble with the fish-world meek.
His gift of time and smile of trust
Can raise a grad student from the dust
As noble work for all Fishkind.
His support of Marine Parks comes to mind.
His only weakness it would seem
Is over-fondness for ice cream.

With this my tribute now shall end
Hail scholar, gentleman, and friend!

- John L. Earle, 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Frederick W. Schueler
> Sent: Tuesday, March 19, 2019 10:49 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Happy Taxonomist Appreciation Day!
> On 19-Mar.-19 1:47 p.m., Richard Pyle wrote:
> > Just sayin'...
> If it wasn't for the namers what would we do, We wouldn't have names both
> short and true, We couldn't specify a creature in a word or two, If it wasn't for
> the work of the namers.
> If it wasn't for the namers you'd just shrug and call every crawling thing a bug.
> Nothing makes a person a more perfect mug than to disregard the work of the
> namers.*
> If it wasn't for the namers where would we be, We wouldn't have synonymy,
> Each would use his favourite name and all would disagree, If it wasn't for the
> work of the namers.
> If it wasn't for the namers we wouldn't know, To regard Sorex as a Shrew, We
> wouldn't know cinereus from fumeus and you, Would simply scream "A
> shrewmouse there, step on it!"
> If it wasn't for the namers where'd we begin to know who was kith and kin?
> There would be no way to know which clade we're in if it wasn't for the work
> of the namers.*
> If it wasn't for the namers what would we do, We wouldn't have names both
> short and true, We couldn't specify a creature in a word or two, If it wasn't for
> the work of the namers.
> *'d verses, June 2013, Gagetown bioblitz. -
> https://bioblitznb.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/a-poem-by-fred-
> schueler/comment-page-1/
> On the way back from Wawa, Ontario (6 October 2000 - the day we drove for
> 20 hrs) - to the tune of "If it was na'for the wark o' the weavers.
> - to the tune of
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix_fIy5zgv0&fbclid=IwAR0iiTXIRKe86TuJv
> pohFfNvKLkjQ15vsiX5llL2LLPl09omzY7lThnWaFU
> ------------------------------------------------------------
>           Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
>           Fragile Inheritance Natural History Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills -
> https://www.facebook.com/MudpuppyNight/
> 'Daily' Paintings - http://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot.com/
> 4 St-Lawrence Street Bishops Mills, RR#2 Oxford Station, Ontario K0G 1T0
>    on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain  44.87156° N 75.70095° W
> (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> "Feasting on Conolophus to the conclusion of consanguinity"
>   -
> http://www.lulu.com/shop/frederick-w-schueler/feasting-on-conolophus-to-
> the-conclusion-of-consanguinity-a-collection-of-darwinian-
> verses/paperback/product-23517445.html
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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