Why Shouldn’t a Horsefly Be Named After Beyoncé?
At best, names for species derived from celebrities and scientists become maps to hidden treasure, rewarding those who follow the trail of clues with stories of fascinating people and human history.Photograph by Ronald Woan / Flickr David Bowie and Beyoncé never shared a stage, but they share the distinction of having cleverly eponymous species names […]
Hitler and the Naming of the Shrew
When zoologists tried to change the words for bat and shrew, the Führer was not amused.
How “Useless” Science Unraveled an Amphibian Apocalypse
One spring day in 1984, Joyce Longcore got a phone call from Joan Brooks, a biologist at the University of Maine. Brooks had received a National Science Foundation grant to study the interactions of fungi and bacteria in peat bogs. She needed a hand, and she heard through the grapevine that Longcore knew a bit […]
Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?
The open nature of the science of classification virtually guarantees fights.
How a Mental Disorder Can Disappear from the World Overnight
The dinosaur long ago renamed “Apatosaurus” is still often called “Brontosaurus.” stevegeer via iStock Over the past few decades, autism and Asperger syndrome have become prominent in the public consciousness, and that prominence has been reflected in popular art and entertainment. Autism, a mental illness characterized by repetitive behaviors and impaired social interactions, was brought […]
How Unicorns Evolved Into Rhinos, Goblin Sharks & Olinguitos
Earlier this month there was a rare announcement, promoted widely by the press: a new mammal species had been discovered, the first carnivorous mammal identified in the Americas for 35 years. But the olinguito, as the raccoon-like carnivore is now known, was not spotted for its surprising looks or remarkable behaviors that set it apart […]