Wednesday, 4 March 2020
The taxonomic method of species identification
You guys seem to enjoy the recent video on the Merrylin museum and its strange artifacts so I found an article on the similar subject of Taxonomania.
Taxonomania is the study of creatures that are claimed to be completely fictional but in some cases crosses into the realms of cryptozoology.
Catalogs of Invented Species, From the Pop-Eyed Frog to the Loch Ness Monster, let’s take a look at this subject that brings together taxidermy, cryptozoology, and zoology and see just what creatures we find.
No matter how diligently researchers try to keep fiction out of research papers on occasions things do find their way through the cracks. Sometimes this is done with malicious intent with people trying to corrupt real research programs other times it’s purely by accident.
Looking at the book by Michael Ohl’s “The Art of Naming.” We can see how the Austrian entomologist Hans Malicky used this to his advantage.
The Austrian entomologist is consider a world authority on the study of caddisflies. The man is also know by the pseudonym Otto Suteminn. This alter ego wrote papers on the discovery of two new flea species from Nepal, Ctenophthalmus nepalensis and Amalareus fossorius.
Most didn’t see anything strange in the names given to these new types of flea or the description and claimed locations that these insects were said to have been found.
Eventually people who looked a little closer at this discovery found that the discovery was a complete fabrication.
In 1972 a short article was printed in the Entomologische Nachrichtenblatt by F. G. A. M. Smit, a well-known flea researcher at the Natural History Museum in London. Its title was “Notes on Two Fictitious Fleas from Nepal.”
Smit picked through article piece by piece and line by line, he uncovered that almost all the information was bogus. Not just the details of the two fleas, but also their mammal hosts, Canis fossor (“canine gravedigger”) when the Latin is translated and Apodemus roseus (the “pink wood mouse”), are both animals of complete fantasy, hoping to sell his scam Malicky included flea species that are real as comparison.
Moving on from insects to amphibians and in 1978, the “pop-eyed frog” was added to the journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa. Given the scientific designation of ‘Rana magnaocularis’ biologist and zoologist were excited by the new find.
The animal was described as being flat with huge bulbous eyes protruding from the head, a prominent tongue unusually extending out of the mouth, body and limbs highly flattened dorso ventrally. Dorso lateral fold absent. Otherwise resembles Rana pipiens.”
Rana pipiens being the Northern leopard frog
The northern leopard frog is a species of leopard frog from the true frog family, native to parts of Canada and the United States. It is the state amphibian of Minnesota and Vermont.
It was said that the pop eyed frog could be found in or alongside busy paved roads, especially in the spring. The unique body adaptations were claimed to help it keep a low profile making it harder for predators to spot. Regular frogs hide in reeds and grass the pop eyed frog prefers roads and pavements.
One thing that was a source of confusion for researchers is that dead specimens all displayed an unusual zig zag pattern on their backs.
Okay if you haven’t guessed yet this specimen was a complete fraud going so far as to be an obvious joke.
The pop eyed frog was obviously road kill, its appearance coming from the effects of a car rolling over an unfortunate regular old frog. This story does highlight just how easy it is for fake animals to find their way into well-established scientific journals.
Even with serious species descriptions, it’s only in exceptional cases that the inventory number and existence of type material are reviewed before being published.
There has long been a history of this practice, we can go all the way back to the sixth century when it was published that there were many of the cryptids we know and love today running around the planet.
Description of animals like Nessie, Bigfoot, and the yeti were published alongside animals like giraffe’s elephants and lions.
This bringing us onto the topic most of you guys visit the channel for cryptozoology.
The field of cryptozoology studies the legends and myths of mystery animals in the hope of proving that they exist their substance. Stories, legends, and folktales from around the world have a basis in truth and the legends of these beast talk of well-hidden little known animal species.
This is when we meet Nessiteras rhombopteryx or as you may know may not it “Nessie”
The superstar cryptid has long been thought to be a surviving plesiosaur this because of the description given buy witnesses of the fabled Scottish creature, those that have seen it say it is characterized by an large body, long slender neck with a small serpent like head, it has four large, paddle-like swimming extremities.
Skeptics say that this is impossible as plesiosaurs went extinct millions of years ago, so this where Taxonomania steps in with an answer.
It defines the LOCH NESS monster as a separate species, with the help of underwater photos, along with sonar diagrams caught by Rines and Sir Peter Scott the animal was named formally as Nessiteras rhombopteryx.
The first part of Nessiteras coming from its home of Loch Ness. The second part being derived from the Greek teras; since the days of Homer, this term has been used to mean “a marvel or wonder.
The specific epithet is a combination of the Greek rhombos, for rhomboidal, and pteryx, for fins or wings. Scott and Rines write that, literally translated, Nessiteras rhombopteryx means “the Ness wonder with a diamond fin.”
This giving us the Literal translation of Nessiteras rhombopteryx as “the Ness wonder with a diamond fin.”
The lake monster is not the only cryptid that has received an official classification and name, the wild man of the forest Bigfoot may soon also be officially recognized by its own species name.
Researchers and Sasquatch fans alike have often pointed to the similarities shared with the animal that is known as Gigantopithecus, this just as Nessie was compared to a plesiosaur. Like Nessie Bigfoot also has cousins found around the world the Alma, Yowie or yeti to name a few.
In the book “Big Foot-Prints,” anthropologist and Bigfoot researcher Grover S. Krantz, , talks about the idea of Bigfoot and Sasquatch legends and the different name given in different regions for an animal that is most likely the same species and then suggests a few possible scientific names for the hominid creature.
Krantz says should Bigfoot ever be proven real and be a part of the Gigantopithecus genus, then “Gigantopithecus Canadensis” would be the best choice.
Krantz also ponders the connection between Sasquatch and Australopithecus.
Australopithecus being an ancestor of man which went extinct long ago but shows us that our genus originated in Africa. Following the pattern given before we could arrive at the name Australopithecus Canadensis, Krantz is not the first to assign a scientific classification name to Bigfoot back in 1971 researcher Gordon Strasenburgh made the argument for naming the animal Paranthropus eldurrelli.
So we have a Description, diagnosis, name, and publications for these cryptids what else is needed?
One tenet of taxonomy is that, first and foremost, what is published be valid.
In the case of Nessie we have all these parts in place, the name should be accepted as an official tittle to further cement the naming of Nessie the researchers Scott and Rines compare their newly defined species Nessiteras rhombopteryx to other lake monsters, singling out those that have also been formally named.
The oldest example they pointed to was the Massachusetts Sea Serpent, named Megophias monstrosus, this animal was official named back in 1817 by naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz.
Then in 1958 Bernard Heuvelmans a man known as one of the founders of cryptozoological research described the Megalotaria longicollis, another plesiosaur like creature that is claimed to live in North American waters.
Over his many years of research the man became involved in many hunts for proof of cryptids he was famously involved with a cryptid he named “ Homo pongoides” but is better known as the Minnesota Iceman.
Taxonomy providing a very scientific sounding name for something that many said was a hoax.
The taxonomic method of species identification and description is so closely linked with the naming process that it is almost impossible to differentiate between the two. This is particularly important in cryptozoology, the object range for taxonomy is empty because most systematic scientists would agree that the species being described do not exist.
Taxonomy and naming both focus on the same subjects: an animal or other biological being waiting to be both described and named in a way that can be presented to the academic community.
This providing a seal of approval for creatures that are too often regarded as myth or frauds.
What cryptids do you know that have a name given using Taxonomy, what name would you propose for your favorite untitled cryptid?
Let me know in the comments below.
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