The Frustration of the Taxonomist

A miserable Brachymyrmex patagonicus worker, who for some reason is caring for her awful, cocooned sisters. (Tucson, Arizona)

Scientists aren’t expected to interject opinionated commentary in the more technical parts of their work. Yet I enjoy the little disciplinary lapses that allow judgmental biases to trickle through.

Below, I’ve scanned in a couple of my favorite examples from the ant taxonomic literature:

Brachymyrmex was Creighton’s least favorite ant. (From Creighton [1950] The Ants of North America)
George and Jeanette Wheeler were apparently tired of Aphaenogaster occidentalis. (From Wheeler & Wheeler [1986] Ants of Nevada)

9 thoughts on “The Frustration of the Taxonomist”

  1. I love things like this – I come across similar tidbits in the usually-dry descriptions in field guides sometimes. In my butterfly book, the entry for the Harvester begins, “The only carnivorous butterfly in North America!” The exclamation mark makes me think the author is just as excited as I am about the existence of carnivorous butterflies. 🙂

  2. Of course, the frustration of the modern ant taxonomist is that they are not employed as a taxonomist, retired and thus no longer care, or they are dead and awaiting zombification so that they can complain amidst brain-meals.

  3. And of course, sometimes it manifests in names themselves; I’m thinking Monomorium taedium, M. mediocre, and my favorite: Carebara = a headache.

  4. Pingback: Links 12/25/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist

  5. Gordon C. Snelling

    One must not forget Stenamma exasperatum.

    “Etymology Descriptive. Exasperatum, L., so named to express my feeling upon discovering that these specimens, thought to be S. heathi, represent still another species.” Roy R. Snelling 1973

  6. I love this almost affectionate description of Sericomyrmex amabilis by Wheeler 1925:

    “As soon as the rain ceased the silky, mouse-like workers began to bring up small pellets of earth and carefully deposit them in the form of a loose crater around the entrance, which was about 3 mm. in diameter.”

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