‘Linnaeus more influential than Jesus or Hitler’

This video about biology is called Carolus Linnaeus and Modern Taxonomy.

From New Scientist:

Jesus and Hitler beaten in Wikipedia influence list

18:00 10 June 2014 by Jacob Aron

Move over, Jesus. Step aside, Hitler. Neither of you has got anything on Carl Linnaeus, inventor of the scientific naming scheme for plants and animals, who has been crowned the most influential person in history. An analysis of links within Wikipedia articles by Young-Ho Eom of the University of Toulouse, France, and colleagues gave Linnaeus the title after they used the Google PageRank algorithm to come up with their list.

Google uses this algorithm to count the number of incoming links to a webpage, because pages that are linked to by a lot of other sites are likely to be important. Eom applied the algorithm to 24 separate language editions of Wikipedia to see if different cultures rated different historical figures as the most important.

Linnaeus topped the chart across all languages because there are so many Wikipedia pages with scientific names in every edition, and they all eventually lead back to him. Looking at just the English edition, the top three were Napoleon, Barack Obama and Linnaeus.

Of course, what works to show a webpage’s influence doesn’t necessarily apply to how influential a person is, so the team also tried another algorithm called 2DRank, which counts both incoming and outgoing links. That spat out Adolf Hitler, Michael Jackson and Madonna as the most important across all languages, and Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Pope Pius XII in just English.

The team also looked at how the number of important people is spaced throughout history. Most people in their lists were born after the 17th century, in line with the general rise of global population, but there are spikes in the 5th and 1st century BC thanks to ancient Greek scholars, Roman leaders and Christian figures.

A previous PageRank analysis run in 2010 opted for Jesus, Napoleon and William Shakespeare, but because Wikipedia is constantly evolving, it is no surprise that the list has changed. Eom’s team has posted their full list for each language online if you want to see where your favourite historical figure ended up.

Journal reference: arXiv, arxiv.org/abs/1405.7183


Parakeets and greenfinches in the botanical garden

This is a greenfinch video.

Today, it is winter.

In the city, much of yesterday’s snow has succumbed to freezing, thawing, cars, bicycles or pedestrians.

Still, especially in gardens and on trees, still snow. And treacherous icy spots on roads.

Blackbird male, botanical garden, 8 December 2012

In the botanical garden, a male blackbird looks for food between the snow.

One of the biggest and oldest trees in the botanical garden is a Taxus baccata L. Its name in English is European yew tree.

The L. behind the Latin name means this is a special tree species. The L. stands for Carolus Linnaeus, the famous eighteenth century Swedish naturalist. Linnaeus designed the scientific names system for living organisms still in use now. But Linnaeus named only a small minority of species known today. The European yew tree is one species of that special minority.

Linnaeus visited this botanical garden in the eighteenth century. Did he see this tree, then a lot smaller, and did it inspire him to give its species a name?

I don’t know the exact age of this specimen, I don’t know whether it already was there in the eighteenth century. But I can certainly see it is old, and much taller than average yew trees.

Ring-necked parakeet female, botanical garden, 8 December 2012

The big yew tree has many red berries. They attract many birds. Blackbirds. Song thrushes. Ring-necked parakeets (see the female on the two photos).

Ring-necked parakeet female, yew tree, botanical garden, 8 December 2012

A collared pigeon.

There is ice on the canal. The ice is still thin. A passing passenger boat breaks it, pushing it aside. No need of an icebreaker for that yet.

The small pond near the source of the brook is frozen. So is the big carp pond, where the brook flows into. The brook itself is not frozen, it streams.

A group of six great cormorants flying overhead.

Greenfinches, botanical garden, 8 December 2012

In the rose garden, two greenfinches.

In the smaller yew trees in the garden of the old university library, not so many birds today.

Newly discovered species, a summary

From Arizona State University in the USA:


Insects top latest inventory of newly discovered species

Annual ‘State of Observed Species’ report released by International Institute for Species Exploration

TEMPE, Ariz. – More than half of the 19,232 species newly known to science in 2009, the most recent calendar year of compilation, were insects – 9,738 or 50.6 percent – according to the 2011 State of Observed Species (SOS) report released Jan. 18 by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

The second largest group in the 2009 numbers was vascular plants, totaling 2,184 or 11.3 percent. Of the 19,232 in the total count, seven were birds, 41 were mammals and 1,487 were arachnids – spiders and mites.

And, according to this latest report, there was a 5.6 percent increase in new living species discovered in 2009, compared to 2008.

The annual SOS report card on the status of human knowledge of Earth’s species summarizes what is known about global flora and fauna. The 19,232 species described as “new” or newly discovered during calendar year 2009 represent about twice as many species as were known in the lifetime of Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who initiated the modern system of plant and animal names and classifications more than 250 years ago, said the report’s author, Quentin Wheeler, an ASU entomologist and founding director of the species institute.

“The cumulative knowledge of species since 1758 when Linnaeus was alive is nearly 2 million, but much remains to be done,” Wheeler said. “A reasonable guess is that 10 million additional plant and animal species await discovery by scientists and amateur species explorers.”

Additionally, recent macrogenomic surveys of DNA from terrestrial and marine environments have revealed “enormous and previously unsuspected levels of genetic diversity that corresponds in some not-yet-understood way to species diversity,” explained Wheeler.

“It has been speculated, for example, that marine microbial species alone could number 20 million,” he said.

With those staggering numbers as a backdrop, statistics, or “species bites,” from the latest report note that:

Almost 24 percent of the new vascular plant species discovered in 2009 were in the monocot order Asparagales, which includes orchids, hyacinths, irises, daffodils, amaryllis, allium, aloe and, of course, asparagus.

Year to year, the largest order of newly discovered insects is the beetles, and, 2009 was no exception. Overall, 3,485 new beetle species (Coleoptera) were officially described including rove beetles (568), ground beetles (421), long-horned beetles (369), leaf beetles (356) and scarabs (288).

Only 41 new living mammal species were officially described in 2009 and of those, 83 percent were either bats (44 percent) or rodents (39 percent).

Almost 90 percent (133) of the new living amphibian species described in 2009 were frogs.

There was almost five times more fossil bird species (34) newly described in 2009 than living birds (seven).

Typical of most years, the largest number of new fish species was in the order Perciformes and 29 percent of those were in the families Gobiidae (22) and Cichlidae (11). Gobies include some of the tiniest fish on Earth, and the cichlids include some of the most popular aquarium fish, including the angelfish and damselfish.

Of the 626 newly described living crustacean species, 224 (31.8 percent) were in the order Decapoda, which includes crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns and shrimp.

The Colubridae is the largest family of snakes and in 2009, almost 65 percent of the newly described living snakes were colubrids. In addition to 31 new snakes, new reptile species (living) included 38 lizards, 29 geckos, 12 iguanas, five chameleons and two turtles.

More than 13 percent of the new fungus species (living) described in 2009 were gilled mushrooms in the order Agaricales (178). Of the mushrooms, more than one-fifth (21.3 percent) were in the family Marasmiaceae, which includes shiitake mushrooms.

In addition to the living species discovered during 2009, there were 1,905 fossil species, with insects and spiders accounting for 25.6 percent.

See also here.

Linnaeus and Ethiopian wildlife

This video is called Wildlife in Ethiopia.

From the Daily Monitor in Ethiopia:

Ethiopia: The Quest for Species Continues – So Does Extinction

B. Mezgebu

12 March 2009


Addis Abeba — When in the 18th century, a Swedish botanist by the name of Carl Linnaeus traveled in the world and having got hold of various species, 10,000 approximately, he gave each one of them a name, comprising two words actually, he thought he had found every species that lived in the world. He also named the one species closest to him Homo sapiens.

Linnaeus, a distinguished scientist by any measure was, however, far off the mark. Other scientists who followed in his footsteps left no stones unturned, literally, to find and name new plants or animals. They drilled into the earth’s crust searching for microbes, dived to oceans to search for living things in ocean vents and probed for life on other planets. It’s now believed there may be 30 million species all in all.

The quest continues. Anybody can find new species; you just have to beat about the bush. In fact, a few rich people who have wads of money to spare can now have a species named after them, even if the species in hand is the size of a dot. A long way off from the vanity of wanting a whole street named after you.

30 million sounds a mind-boggling number indeed, especially to urbanites today. Think of the average person in Addis. He rarely travels out of town. The kind and number of living things he encounters all his life are actually very limited. He or she might come in daily contact with a few plants or animals. On the main it will be livestock and a few species of trees and shrubs, which we most of us hardly notice anyway. So imagining that we live side by side with other 30 million living things does not come that easily.

Incidentally, I would like to mention here that zoos plug the gap in this aspect to some extant. To young people, therefore, who may have no chance of seeing a wild zebra in the flesh, observing it in a zoo would be the next good thing.

Commonly, most of us believe (some certainly don’t) human beings are the top dog. In other words, we are by right at the top of the food chain, and that we have been created for a special purpose. Braininess is our specialty, obviously. It helps us manipulate things here on earth. Come to think of it, it is good that the rest of living things don’t posses that power, otherwise we might have manipulated each other to extinction. In any case our capacity to manipulate the rest of nature might have been excessively used in some instances.

Having said that, Homo sapiens has been quite proficient at seeing to it that other species don’t outnumber him. Or outlast him, for that matter. How else can you explain the following: It is believed that the country’s wealth in fauna was enormous at some distant past. Now we Ethiopians have done a heck of good job killing off the wildlife that not only do we fall behind countries like Kenya in the kind and number of animals, but that our tourist industry survives because of history, and not because of nature.

Take the geographical forest cover in the country that is supposed to have been standing in the past or at a time when people started doing some counting. 40 percent of the country was graced by that stretch of verdant lay of the land. Today, despite some petty arguments as to whether the existing forest is this percentage or that percentage point higher, the rural landscape is for all intents and purposes, heavily deforested. Everything inside the forests, fauna and flora, is gone too.

Saving the Ethiopian wolf in face of habitat loss, diseased dogs, and climate change, an interview with Claudio Sillero-Zubiri, founder of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme: here.

Gladiolus balensis Goldblatt is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. This plant is endemic to Ethiopia and thus far has only been collected in two locations. It grows in basaltic rocky areas which have now become largely cultivated or, in some areas, left fallow for grazing. This plant grows to about 55 cm in height, bearing a corm of about 20 mm in diameter, and has a very narrow altitudinal range of about 1,700-1,900 metres above sea level: here.

June 2011: An international conservation project has brought together botanists and scientists from Middle East and North Africa in an unprecedented bid to secure the future of the region’s wildlife: here.

Biology and classification in the museum

This is a Dutch video about the natural history museum.

As I said, the exhibition on biology and classification in the museum starts with the seventeenth century, and the eighteenth century of Linnaeus and Buffon.

It ends with new developments in subjects like DNA research, which also led to the museum finding out some clouded leopards in their collection were in fact Bornean clouded leopards, recently discovered to be a separate species.

In between, many interesting points on animals.

The oldest holotype animal in the collection of the museum is from 1758.

It was described by Linnaeus himself, though he saw only a drawing of the animal, not the stuffed animal itself.

It is a gray four-eyed opossum from Latin America.

Linnaeus’ name is still behind this species’ name. However, between (brackets); as Linnaeus put this opossum in the genus Didelphis, while later science did not do that any more; though it still is in the family Didelphimorphia.

Another holotype at this exhibition is from Madagascar.

It is a Northern Giant Mouse Lemur (Mirza zaza).

The animal had been in a formaldehyde bottle in the museum for a long time, before it was discovered in 2005 that it was a separate species.

When new animal species are discovered, they are often called after people whom the discoverers know.

In this way, there were six animal species exhibited, named after Willem Vervoort, former director of the museum.

They are a soft coral, Dendronephtya vervoorti; another soft coral, Sindonia vervoorti; a candy coral, Distichopora vervoorti; sea firs, Eudendrium vervoorti; a copepod, Pseudochiella vervoorti; and a jewel damselfly, Watuwila vervoorti.

Of the estimated five thousand parasitic wasp species in the Netherlands, almost three thousand are present in the museum. Most are smaller than three millimeter; the ones exhibited here were bigger species.

The museum has a big collection of plant and animal fossils from the Carboniferous age. In the coal mines which used to be in Limburg province, 75,000 fossils were found. Including insect wings.

Recently, in 2003, an insect which had been considered extinct, was re-discovered in Zuid Holland province: the chequered history diving beetle Graphoderus bilineatus; see also here. This species depends on unpolluted water.

The classification of life: From Aristotle to Woese: here.