Over 12,000 ant species have been described since the inception of modern taxonomy 252 years ago. From Formica rufa Linneaus 1758 to Paraparatrechina gnoma LaPolla & Cheng 2010, where did all those names come from?
Now it’s easier than ever to find out. The Global Ant Project is assembling a biography for each of the 917 people responsible for our current taxonomy. These are the researchers who have defined the species, assembled them into genera and subfamilies, supplied the latin names, and refined the work of their predecessors.
Efforts like these help us realize is that taxonomy is fundamentally a human endeavor. In spite of its scientific foundations the practice remains full of guesswork, mistakes, reversals and disagreements. Jean Bondoit (1882-1952) apparently carried a revolver to meetings. Eric Wasmann (1859-1931) was among the first Catholic clergymen who stood up for Darwin’s theories- outside the human lineage, at least. The Global Ant Project’s directory offers a little peek behind the curtain. Check it out.
(And that Alex Wild? What a charming fellow…)