Corporate naming of taxa

Ok, I’m gone, so you guys have the floor. Apparently there is a group that specializes in selling off naming rights to taxa to corporations:

“In recent years, more and more non-profits, from conservation groups to research institutions, have been selling the opportunity to name new species.

With millions of species still to be discovered, the opportunities for fundraising are nearly endless. While clearly a niche market, it’s also a potentially lucrative one, as proven by a high-profile auction that netted $2 million last year for the U.S. non-profit Conservation International.”

(You may remember Conservation International as the group that sold out to McDs for The Bee Movie.)

So–great way to raise cash for underfunded taxonomists? Commercial travesty?

Discuss!

(and I’ll ping 95% and Gossamer Tapestry, since I know they will have an opinion :)  )

10 thoughts on “Corporate naming of taxa

  1. Ye gods and little fishes!

    I was about to say this was horrible, but I can see some benefit to naming just pest species after corporate giants …

    andrea

  2. There must be thousands of hospitals, university buildings and sports facilities named for the donor that backed the project. To my mind, money is better spent on scientific research than on naming a football stadium but the people with the money are justified in expecting some bang for their buck. I don’t see any reason why the organization that funds a research project shouldn’t get some credit – how is anyone harmed when a plant or insect is named after a corporation?

  3. I think it’s the harm to the psyche. Imagine the future:

    “Hey, look at that dragonfly! Is that the rare McDonald’s BLT or just the common 3M StickyNotes variety? Oh, wait, my bad, it’s the Proctor & Gamble Downy Emerald…”

    ::shudder::

  4. phantommidge said,

    “Hey, look at that dragonfly! Is that the rare McDonald’s BLT or just the common 3M StickyNotes variety? Oh, wait, my bad, it’s the Proctor & Gamble Downy Emerald…”

    :: headdesk ::

  5. I was initially against this when I first came across the idea several years ago. But taxonomists have been naming species after friends, family, colleges, their institutions, etc. for centuries. It is not new. But they were doing it for free. I have a sea anemone description that I named after the organisation that funded my anemone research, not just because of that, but because they have been supporting biodiversity research in the deep sea for almost 10 years and do great work! I didn’t have to, just did it of appreciation.

    I think if individuals and business was their names immortalized and willing to put up serious money for it in support of taxonomic and biodiversity research, I am all for it. You have to realize the conditions that have forced this. Government and most private funding for taxonomy is essentially nonexistent, yet taxonomist’s skills are in increasingly high demand as we uncover more unknown species, especially now that we are applying molecular methods to systematics. To continue our work, and more importantly to train new generations, funding must be acquired from somewhere. Increasingly, biologists are having to acquire funding from industry. And I see no reason how this is a bad thing. What IS bad in my opinion is that if industry becomes more and more or a significant player, the government agencies will start assuming that scientists can find industry funds for their research and cut even deeper in the money pool. That is scary to me. Government funding of science is imperative.

  6. Thanks Kevin! I kind of come down on the “give money to taxonomy” side of the fence, but I really fear what Lawnchair Naturalist describes too.

  7. Mimi said,
    “I wonder what the American Airlines beetle will look like?”

    I expect that it would look like a gianormous number of other beetles: black.

    Maybe the UPS finch would look like all the other finches: brown.

    And the Xerox skipper would be nearly identical to most of the other skippers: tan.

    And the Yellow Pages goldenflower would look like most of the other Asteraceae: yellow.

    Granted, there are a lot of really cool organisms out there. But there are also a LOT of Big Black Beetles, Little Brown Birds, Tiny Tan Leps, and Goddamn Yellow Composite flowers. Because even the Flying Spaghetti Monster got bored after a certain point.

    andrea (tongue firmly in cheek)

Comments are closed.