Field of Science

2008 Retrospectus

It is now officially 2009 - or at least I assume it is. These days, I'm old and grizzly enough that I no longer feel the compulsion to stay up late on December 31st to make sure the clock ticks over to 12:01 like it should do. Still, a look back at the year here at Catalogue of Organisms might not go amiss.

Over the course of 2008, yours truly has put up 201 posts, meaning an average of one post every 1.82 days. I tell you, it's times like this that make me think - I'm really not doing enough work on my thesis. Not that I've been entirely unproductive on that front - two short papers have been published:

Taylor, C. K. 2008. A new species of Monoscutinae (Arachnida, Opiliones, Monoscutidae) from New Zealand, with a redescription of Monoscutum titirangiense. Journal of Arachnology 36: 176-179.

Taylor, C. 2008. A new species of Monoscutidae (Arachnida, Opiliones) from the wheatbelt of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 24. (No page numbers for that one because it's only come out from the press within the last few days, and I haven't received a copy myself yet.)

The first of these established the new genus and species Templar incongruens (Templar because it's heavily armoured and the female has a cross-shaped marking on its back), and the second presents Megalopsalis linnaei (named in commemoration of Linnaeus' 300th birthday, and part of a special commemorative issue of the Records containing a number of new species so-named - I don't know what the rest are yet, though I do know that there's a scorpion in there).

There's another manuscript which is very close to completing review (I'm just making the last few requested edits) and two which are completed but awaiting submission. A couple of those will definitely be featuring here once they're published, so watch this space.

The Catalogue averaged 138 visits per day for 2008. The busiest day was the 29th of August, when 403 people passed by. Over half of those were sparked by Larry Moran linking to a post of mine on Gould and Lewontin's Spandrels paper. For the record, I'm not entirely happy with that post myself - I think it ended up sounding too positive about its subject. But that's the problem with the Spandrels paper - like the Bible and the Origin of Species, its social significance has become something above and beyond its actual content (which, in the case of Spandrels, is actually kind of weak). Larry was also responsible for the popularity of the most-visited post of the year, on the origin of flowering plants. Larry has linked to me a few times over the year, and every time has caused a big spike in my readership, so I would like to extend my formal thanks to him at this point.

My personal favourite posts of the year include the angiosperm origins post I've just linked to, as well as posts on why ceratopsids aren't worth it and baleen whales. The report of an articulated fossil of a machaeridian had the paper's first author putting an appearance in the comments, and inspired me to devote an entire week to scleritome fossils that was some of the most fun I had on this site this year. I also got first-author attention for the Sophophora melanogaster post (still waiting for a decision there, in case you were wondering). I was rapturous over my first ever observations of entoprocts and tardigrades, though sadly I never did successfully isolate those follicle mites.

I've been quite proud of some of the posts I've written on taxonomic principles. Hopefully, my post on the use of Latin in biological names has been useful to some people. The closure of the Utrecht Herbarium lead me to write some hopefully worthwhile posts on the importance of type and voucher specimens. The latter was followed by a right royal whinge about how few studies bother depositing voucher specimens. The Aetogate debacle led to a post on publication ethics that had (gosh) Kevin Padian commenting with (needless to say) greater clarity and effect than the post itself. And the accidental release ahead of time of the draft for what was to become Epidexipteryx lead to my speaking on the role of electronic publication in taxonomy, followed only a few weeks later by the release of the ICZN proposals on just that matter.

I've also written on some of the year's most fascinating publications - the aforementioned machaeridian (still my nomination for the greatest announcement of 2008), cannibalism in the life-cycle of a heterotrophic alga, the experimental induction of the next phase in the unknown life-cycle of y-larvae, a photosynthetic relation for Sporozoa, the Waptia chain, and within the last two days, the Attercopus redescription.

So all in all, I hope not time completely wasted. 2009 promises (or "threatens" might be more appropriate) to be an eventful year - I have to finish my thesis this year (argh!) and then try to actually find employment (oh dear). To quote Patrick McGoohan - "Be seeing you".


  1. Happy new year christopher! Good news about your publications. I just found out in the last couple weeks two papers are going to press early this year, describing 5 new species in total.

    Its been a fun year keeping up with your posts. The Catalogue of Organisms is one of the few blogs I jump to right away when I see the feed updated. Looking forward to more in 2009.

  2. Your blog has been one of the bright spots in a dismal year.

    For me it's always a game: have I looked into that biodiversity for myself yet? A good fraction of the time I have, but it's nice to be updated. When I haven't, it's cool stuff that makes me want to get out and collect, or head over to the museum.

    And your articles about controversies in systematic methodology are cogent and provide good perspective. I really liked the stick insect wings one.


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