New Species: Tried Not True

music
ambience Dawn Chorus, Pantanal
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of critters. In the good old days of field biology, finding new species of animals was a catch as catch can affair. Nowadays, with a move to preserve the diversity of life on earth, there’s a great incentive to locate and accurately identify new species as quickly as we can. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“The way new species were found in the past was very much hit and miss. I mean, in the early days, people would be getting to a place as the result of some work. They were picking up animals somewhat randomly; they might be coming back to museums in bottles of rum, and then specialists in those museums who would never get the chance to see them in the wild, would then describe them.”

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History.

“Now what’s happened over the last 50 years is that as international travel has become cheaper and more convenient, more and more biologists have had the opportunity to go out and actually conduct surveys and actually describe their own species that they find in the field. So we’re seeing a gradual shift more and more towards intense surveys being done by specialists and not just receiving the specimens but actually doing the fieldwork. The issue we’re dealing with now is how can we actually find good areas to go and look for specie; how can we try and enhance that speed of discovery. If you really know your organisms very well, you can make very good educated guesses, for example you might look at a map and say, wow this is a forest I haven’t been to before, or this looks like a very exciting remote mountain and there’s probably something very interesting there. So you can make educated guesses, but up until now, we’re really been in the realms of somewhat subjective and hidden misguided decisions.”

In future programs, we’ll hear about a new method of predicting where undiscovered species might be found. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner. music

New Species: Tried Not True

To preserve the diversity of life on earth, there's a great incentive to locate and accurately identify new species as quickly as possible.
Air Date:09/12/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience Dawn Chorus, Pantanal
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of critters. In the good old days of field biology, finding new species of animals was a catch as catch can affair. Nowadays, with a move to preserve the diversity of life on earth, there's a great incentive to locate and accurately identify new species as quickly as we can. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"The way new species were found in the past was very much hit and miss. I mean, in the early days, people would be getting to a place as the result of some work. They were picking up animals somewhat randomly; they might be coming back to museums in bottles of rum, and then specialists in those museums who would never get the chance to see them in the wild, would then describe them."

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History.

"Now what's happened over the last 50 years is that as international travel has become cheaper and more convenient, more and more biologists have had the opportunity to go out and actually conduct surveys and actually describe their own species that they find in the field. So we're seeing a gradual shift more and more towards intense surveys being done by specialists and not just receiving the specimens but actually doing the fieldwork. The issue we're dealing with now is how can we actually find good areas to go and look for specie; how can we try and enhance that speed of discovery. If you really know your organisms very well, you can make very good educated guesses, for example you might look at a map and say, wow this is a forest I haven't been to before, or this looks like a very exciting remote mountain and there's probably something very interesting there. So you can make educated guesses, but up until now, we're really been in the realms of somewhat subjective and hidden misguided decisions."

In future programs, we'll hear about a new method of predicting where undiscovered species might be found. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner. music