The Taliban Beetle

The Taliban Beetle, Naturhistorisches Museum Basel, Switzerland.
The Taliban Beetle, a specimen at the Naturhistorisches Museum Basel, Switzerland.

Meet the Taliban Beetle.

I took this picture in 2004 while visiting the collections at the Natural History Museum in Basel, Switzerland.  For reasons I was unable to discern, a coleopterist working in the collection in the late 1990’s had intended to name this new Afghani ground beetle after the country’s ruling party at the time.  Whether he came to regret this decision in the post 9/11 world, I do not know.

No formal description of the Taliban beetle was ever printed.  So despite the official looking type label, the species Pterostichus talibani does not officially exist. It is just a shadowy specimen in a museum drawer, an unrealized idea biding its time in the darkness.

You may draw your own parallels- or lack thereof– to today’s Taliban.

***update*** Commentator Jesús did some sleuthing and found a formal description for the species. It’s official, after all.  Damn Taliban.

9 thoughts on “The Taliban Beetle”

  1. How curious!

    By the way, I’ve found a formal description of the bettle (and other related species) following this link: http://leb.daba.lv/37-s1.pdf

    Two new and notes on one previously known species of subgenus Asioplatysma Kryzhanovskij (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Pterostichus) from Afghanistan
    Florian Savich. 1999. Latvijas Entomologs 37, pp. 6-13.

  2. It is a valid name then. I’ll be dammed!

    Now the real question is, if you put Pterostichus talibani specimens in a jar together with Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi specimens, who will eat who?

  3. Alex, your blog (along with its many fascinating comments) brightens my day. How do you find this stuff? Keep up the good work. XXXMom

  4. There is a delicious irony that the species are distinguished by genitalic characters. Perhaps the author was making a subtle dig at the distorted hyper-prudery of the Taliban?

  5. Harald Schillhammer

    Unfortunately, there is no derivatio nominis in the descriptions – the motivation for the dedications would have been enlightening :).
    However, such things happen now and then, and there is no way of getting this undone should you regret your decision later. In the collection of our museum there is the holotype of “Anophthalmus hitleri”, described in the mid 30’s …

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