Archive for December 8th, 2008

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Itsy Bitsy Auctions

Purdue University researchers recently discovered seven new species of bats.  Their names are:

The spot is blank because, as of right now, these new species remained unnamed–until somebody pays for it.

“There’s not very much money to support the kind of work it takes to discover these new species,” said John Bickham, a Purdue professor of forestry and natural resources and discoverer of several of the new bats. “Money generated by someone who says, ‘I’m passionate about the environment, and I’d love to go down in history by having a species of organism named after me,’— that’s very important to our continued work.”

Yes, this is a “name a new species” auction.  Apparently, this is not the first of its kind, though still a relatively new phenomenon, and one which unsurprisingly has more than a few people feeling uneasy about how far it will go.  But others seem to be embracing it, seeing that it brings both money and 15-second celebrity to an unappreciated field.  And, of course, it raises awareness about conservation, because citizens would rise up in arms if Stephen Colbert’s spider, Aptostichus stephencolberti, ever neared the threat of extinction.

Though some in the taxonomy world have expressed concern over commercializing the field, Bond says he’s happy to be open for business.  “If a corporation was to make a significant investment in biodiversity, I personally don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be allowed to choose a name,” he said. “We have to find ways to get funding. If we’re not out there collecting new species and describing them, we don’t even know what we’re losing.”

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