Monday, 3 March 2008

Naming rights

I'm reading Carl Zimmer's At the water's edge. It's an excellent book that describes how vertebrates moved from water onto land and then back into the water. Something I came across today made me think (at first) that he hasn't hung around with enough taxonomists.
Taxonomy can sometimes seem rather quaint, with the texture of old glass-fronted cabinets in which an eighteenth-century naturalist might set his seashells. Taxonomists debate in whispers about whether a shrub represents a new species, a new tribe, a new infraorder, a new subclass.

But then he wrote:
Taxonomy has also seen some of the most furious clashes in the recent history of biology.

That's more like it!

Taxonomists are like everybody else. If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you sink our taxa do we not hold your head in the toilet bowl and flush re-examine the evidence and then take out a contract on you consider your analysis?

I'm just saying.

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