Sunday, February 17, 2013

Backyard Naturalists

There's a great article on the BBC website about amateur naturalists who discover new species in their spare time. One would think that the flora and fauna of Europe has been largely cataloged, but new species are still being discovered there, mostly by people who pursue natural history as a hobby.

Much of this new biodiversity is small, especially insects and other invertebrates:
New species are sometimes hiding in plain sight - a new species of wasp was recently discovered by a technician in a car park by his office in Spain. And not long ago, a retired man in Wales came across a new type of slug in his back garden.
The article links to a recent (2012) study published in PLoS ONE, which found that 60% of new species from Europe were described by non-professional taxonomists. As professional expertise in taxonomy moves from the West to emerging economies like those of Latin America and Asia, perhaps this could be a new model for how the study of biodiversity could be kept alive in those regions.

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