Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 22nd, 2009
Surprise, surprise. Yet another way to keep the circus going.
If you thought media coverage of Ida, the 47m-year-old primate, was about to die down, then don’t hold your breath.
The scientists behind the discovery named the new species Darwinius masillae, in honour of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. But it seems they may have been too hasty.
The species name is not valid thanks to a fabulous clash between the bureaucratic world of taxonomy and the newfangled phenomenon that is open source online publishing.
According to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature – and let’s face it, they should know – species names must be published in print before they are formally allocated. The Ida paper was published in an online journal run by the Public Library of Science.
The commission is evidently in the process of hauling its regulations into the 21st century, but for now, the old rules stand.
We can’t leave the poor fossilised scrap with an uncertain scientific name, so I feel obliged to come up with an interim solution until the Latin name has been confirmed. How about Maximus iocus? Or should that be Iocus maximus?