The world's ant taxonomists, brought to you by the Global Ant Project

Theodore Pergande (1840-1916)

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...)

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Figure 1. For the 32 most-studied ant species, the percentage of publications 1984-2008 in various contexts. In thinking about where the myrmecological community ought to devote resources in the age of genomics, it occcured to me that putting some numbers on where researchers have previously…
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Ahhh...Pergande. He named some thrips, too!

Is there anything else like this online for other taxa? It seems unique and I've certainly never heard of an equivalent. Very cool, anyhow.

By Joshua King (not verified) on 13 Mar 2010 #permalink

And here I thought William Morton Wheeler was an acarologist. No accounting for taste, I guess, but his paper on Antennophorus (1910 Psyche 17:1-6, +2 plates) was outstanding for its time. Strange he went back to ants.

Thanks for this Alex. I needed a citation for Karawaiew - honoured by Euandrolaelaps karawaiewi (Berlese, 1904) - presumably the same as Vladimir Aphanasjevich Karavaiev.

Oh, and we should not forget that the name Formica rufa L., 1758 has been suppressed by the ICZN on the account of Yarrow's (1954) finding that in fact Linneus' description of 1758 pertained to Camponotus herculeanus! Instead, the name Formica rufa 1761 is accepted as available and valid, when Linnaeus published a redescription, basing it apparently on a specimen of what was later widely recognized as F. rufa. Therefore we have this strange instance in which the type species for a genus has a later date than the genus itself.