Archivos de diario de marzo 2016

03 de marzo de 2016

Why do scientific names change?

It is difficult for some people to understand why taxa names change. People find that they go to the trouble of learning a whole set of Latinized names, and then a few years or decades later they check another respectable source, and... so many names have changed, some of them completely! Why?

This can seem arbitrary and annoying, but these changes are an attempt to reflect more accurately both the historical details of the naming of taxa (the nomenclature) and the increase in knowledge about the actual relationships between organisms (the taxonomy).

There are hundreds of reasons why a taxon name can change, but here are a few examples:


Sometimes a species name will change as a result of nomenclatural research, for example, because someone has discovered that there is an older, perfectly valid name, for the same taxon.


Ever since Darwin, the taxonomy of organisms is required to attempt to reflect their phylogeny -- in other words, how organisms are classified is supposed to represent their tree of descent.

Because of this...

Sometimes it is discovered that a species needs to be moved to another genus, or even to a brand new genus.

Sometimes a genus is broken up into many genera, as per the sea-snail genus "Conus".

Sometimes a family is broken up into many families, as per the sea-snail family "Turridae".

All these changes have good reasons behind them. We may not like the demands that all these changes put upon us, but basically we only have three choices...

  1. We can give up on the scientific names entirely, and use only common names, which have their own set of confusions.
  2. Or we can keep using the old scientific names and risk not being understood.
  3. Or we can make the effort to learn the new names.

Currently in biology, molecular research is leading to a lot of discoveries about taxa at every level, so a great number of taxonomic changes are resulting, and will continue to result from this.

Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy few decades!

Publicado el 03 de marzo de 2016 por susanhewitt susanhewitt | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de marzo de 2016

Is it Spring yet in New York City?

Here in New York City right now it is still cold. Tonight the temperature will dip into the 30s, although we will (hopefully) not get a frost. Today is bright and sunny, but very windy. It just barely got into the low 50s this afternoon. Most of the winter waterfowl are still on the Reservoir in Central Park.

Spring is underway, at least it is in the early stages, but many plants and animals are still in their winter sleep. The buds of many of the plantings outside the apartment building here, and in Central Park, are opening, but the city as a whole puts out a lot of artificial heat, and this warms the outside temperature several degrees compared with the surrounding countryside.

I do go out and about during the cold months, as much as I can, but I am so looking forward to shedding some of these layers of warm clothing and spending some more pleasant and comfortable time outdoors.

It won't get really warm here until June, by which time it will probably get really hot, really fast.

Currently I look with envy at observations from warmer climates. I long to be able to justify spending two hours on the subway and bus to go to my favorite beach on the outer coast.

But I really should not complain, because if all goes according to plan, I will be in the tropics for 4 weeks starting the end of April.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their regional weather, whatever it is.

Publicado el 29 de marzo de 2016 por susanhewitt susanhewitt | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario
Vida Silvestre es una entidad asociada a la Organización Mundial de Conservación