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Science

The Fruit Fly Drosophila Gets a New Name 136

Posted by timothy
from the hope-you-used-pencil dept.
G3ckoG33k writes "The name of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster will change to Sophophora melangaster. The reason is that scientists have by now discovered some 2,000 species of the genus and it is becoming unmanageably large. Unfortunately, the 'type species' (the reference point of the genus), Drosophila funebris, is rather unrelated to the D. melanogaster, and ends up in a distant part of the relationship tree. However, geneticists have, according to Google Scholar, more than 300,000 scientific articles describing innumerable aspects of the species, and will have to learn the new name as well as remember the old. As expected, the name change has created an emotional (and practical) stir all over media. While name changes are frequent in science, as they describe new knowledge about relationships between species, these changes rarely hit economically relevant species, and when they do, people get upset."
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The Fruit Fly Drosophila Gets a New Name

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  • Like when Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, lay people get upset when the limited amount of science that they have been taught changes. I suspect it is because the media trumpets the claims of science as established fact. Most non-scientists aren't aware of the way the scientific method revisits previous conclusions and is open to the possibility of overturning them.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet and a drosophila melanogaster by any other name will still like a banana.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bmo (77928)

      And you are using a bad example because you appear to be completely unaware that the reclassification of Pluto was because of a political pissing contest at the IAU.

      You know how legislatures approve unpopular bills in the dead of night on a Friday at the end of the session? That's exactly what happened there. But not only that, they waited for most attendees to go home. Scientifically minded people like me were aghast at the shenanigans.

      --
      BMO

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well the decision was not about Pluto, but over the definition of a planet. My lecturers told me the committee (or whatever) tried to push a definition that was fuzzy and would have made many now dwarf planets, planets. In a vote, the "people" as he referred to the astronomers, won and now we have a good definition of a planet.

        Face it: We could never have 9 planets now. It would be 15 and rising (= a mess) or 8 forever.
        Why should 1 body of 4 bodies of roughly equal size rotating around each other make the b

        • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bmo (77928) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:54AM (#31799240)

          Last things first:

          All multiple bodies rotate around a center of mass that is never in the center of the largest body, be it the Earth-Moon system, or the Jupiter system.

          Your 4 body problem is not even rejected as per the definition, so it's a red herring.

          Number of planets? Since when does that matter? Where is the maximum number of planets in the definition?

          The "people" voted? Seriously? You're seriously saying this? Out of 2700 attendees, all but 5 percent had left by the time the vote came up. Never mind that the membership of the IAU that actually attends the congresses is a small minority.

          You know what might have made sense? Making Eris the 10th planet. All other KBO/TNOs are smaller than both Pluto and Eris. Using Pluto's mass as the minimum mass for classification would have solved the problem of "infinite" KBOs being classified as planets.

          --
          BMO

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            One definition that I had heard thrown around is to define a planet as any object that has enough mass that it forms a sphericial shape (this was on nova). Why use pljuto as the minimum mass? That's fairly arbritrary. Ceres shoudl be a planet and its no where near being a KBO

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by bmo (77928)

              1. All definitions are essentially arbitrary at some point.
              2. All the other named KBOs are big enough to be round by gravity
              3. If we make Ceres a planet, then we have to make the KBOs planets too.

              --
              BMO

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Theaetetus (590071)

            Using Pluto's mass as the minimum mass for classification would have solved the problem of "infinite" KBOs being classified as planets.

            Why? It's arbitrary. It's right up there with making a unit of measurement based upon the length of some King's lower appendage. Frankly, I thought we were attempting to move past that with things like the metric system.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by bmo (77928)

              Because when you think about it, the Meter is just as arbitrary as defining Pluto mass objects as the minimum size for planets.

              Go ahead, look up the history of the Meter.

              --
              BMO

              • by Hatta (162192)

                Yes, the meter is arbitrary. However you set the meter, it's clear that objects around size 1 are very different from objects around size .001. A useful classification system will group like with like. Pluto at .2% of Earths mass is very much unlike Earth. When you consider that Haumea and Makemake are 30% of the mass of Pluto, it's clear that Pluto is much more like them than it is like Earth.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by bmo (77928)

                  To hijack your argument:

                  A useful classification system will group like with like. Earth at .3% of Jupiter's mass is very much unlike Jupiter. When you consider that Mars and Venus are 11% and 82% of the mass of Earth, it's clear that Earth is much more like them than it is like Jupiter.

                  Yet all are planets.

                  --
                  BMO

                  • by Dahamma (304068) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @12:42PM (#31800204)

                    Good point. And since Jupiter's mass ratio to the Sun is close to what Earth's is to Jupiter, I think we should just call Jupiter "a really crappy star."

                    Or maybe for classifying celestial objects it's not the size of the body, it's the motion of the fundamental forces ;)

                  • by Hatta (162192)

                    That's a fair assertion. I'd be much more in favor of classifying Jupiter as something else than I would be classifying Pluto as a planet. But there would only be one or two bodies in that group. So I'm not sure it's really useful to call them a whole other group. There are dozens of dwarf planets, and they really deserve their own classification. If you have to draw the line somewhere (and you do), it only makes sense to draw a line in between Pluto and the rest of the planets.

                    What possible justificat

        • by dwye (1127395)

          > Face it: We could never have 9 planets now. It would be 15 and rising (= a mess) or 8 forever.

          What is wrong with 15 planets? There were a number of naming schemes already proposed for trans-Plutonic/trans-Neptunic planets out to at least 13 as far back as the 1960s. That there should be 8 forever, especially if something really big shows up out there, is more ridiculous. Perhaps we should rename Uranus and Neptune as Trans-Saturnic Objects and go back to the Ptolomeic list (sans Sun and Moon)?

          I supp

          • by Bakkster (1529253)

            What is wrong with 15 planets?

            Aside from expanding ad infinitum the group as we discover additional, yet relatively insignificant, objects, nothing.

            Personally, I'm in favor of saying 4 rocky planets, 4 gas giants, and 6+ dwarf planets. The dwarf planets can then be studied as a group by those who do not have time to study them individually, such as children.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tverbeek (457094)

        Translation: "I was on the losing side of this debate, so I'm bitching about the process."

      • by Hatta (162192)

        And you are using a bad example because you appear to be completely unaware that the reclassification of Pluto was because of a political pissing contest at the IAU.

        So there was no scientific reason for reclassifying Pluto? Then, can you provide a definition of "planet" that will include Pluto, but exclude the dozens of other pluto-like objects in the kuiper belt?

    • by Em Emalb (452530)

      Error 503 Service Unavailable

      Service Unavailable
      Guru Meditation:

      XID: 678836868
      Varnish

    • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Informative)

      by Monkey-Man2000 (603495) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:12AM (#31799112)
      The people upset in this case aren't the "lay people [who] get upset when the limited amount of science that they have been taught changes". It's the scientists that use fruit flies as research models because it will confuse the scientific literature. That is, the biologists are upset at the zoologists who classify the species.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Scientists also will find this change inconvenient. A very large amount of what we know about eukaryotic genetics comes from Drosophilia. They're second only to yeast. It's so familiar that we refer to it just like that, no species name needed. It'll take some time to remember to say Sophophora instead.

  • by bjourne (1034822) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:04AM (#31798948) Homepage Journal
    Is it only in software we care about backwards compatiblity? This new name change will break thousands of studies which now references a fly does not exist. Journalists with only a fleeting aquantaince to biology will be confused about Drosophila melanogaster and its new name which leads to worse science reporting. This seems like gratitious breakage, where if an analysis was made the costs would be found much higher than the benefits.
    • by MrMr (219533)
      This new name change will break thousands of studies which now references a fly does not exist.
      You should practice talking to people. Somehow humanity doesn't dump a core over a new word as easily as your electronic buddies.
      • by bmo (77928) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:31AM (#31799000)

        Somehow humanity doesn't dump a core over a new word

        It doesn't?

        Where the hell have you been?

        What about the fights over gender identifying words and political correctness? Gott im himmel, get out from under your rock. Core dump? Entire political movements have been centered around whether we should use certain euphemisms.

        That chair has no legs, it has "limbs" - Victorian era
        That's not a retard, that's a "special person" - Modern times.

        --
        BMO

      • Well, the people who are most affected in this case are biologists for whom "Drosophila" as shorthand for "Drosophila melanogaster" is as embedded in the vocabulary as "blue" is for "the color of the sky on a clear day" -- it's a really fundamental change in the language, and not one to which we'll react well. And the fact that the word is also embedded in a hell of a lot of data and code makes it a computational problem as well as a human one.

        A lot of people are comparing this to Pluto's demotion, but it'

    • by djdevon3 (947872)
      Most publications can stop print on old versions and create a new version. Even the bible was blessed with revisions. Besides who still uses books anyway? We have teh internetz for gratuitous reference material. Don't you know computers never lie? :P
    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:00AM (#31799260) Journal

      Drosophilia melanogaster nomenclature 1.0 was conceived in the 1930's by Johann Wilhelm Meigen.

      Drosophilia melanogaster 2.0, for use in genetic science, was developed by Charles W. Woodworth and Thomas Hunt Morgan.

      Fruit Fly 3.0, Sophophora melanogaster, (note the summary is missing an o, a syntax error), is a major and backwards-incompatible release after a long period of testing.

      Some features have been backported to Fruit Fly 2.6, which is a different fly from the Tephritidae family that poses economic crop problems in Australia.

      Works Cited:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drosophila_melanogaster [wikipedia.org]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_(programming_language) [wikipedia.org]
      http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=10/04/10/0519202 [slashdot.org]

      • by Petrushka (815171)

        Syntax is not morphology: response to TaoPhoenix

        TaoPhoenix's useful summary of the development of the "fruitfly" correctly points out that the summary is missing an o. However, the author incorrectly describes this as a syntax error.(1)

        This is not a syntax error but a morphology error. Syntax refers to the study of observed patterns in the sequential arrangement of words or lexemes;(2) morphology refers to the study of how lexemes change their form (e.g. requiring an extra "o" or not).(3)

        In addition, the au

    • by russotto (537200)

      Is it only in software we care about backwards compatiblity? This new name change will break thousands of studies which now references a fly does not exist. Journalists with only a fleeting aquantaince to biology will be confused about Drosophila melanogaster and its new name which leads to worse science reporting. This seems like gratitious breakage, where if an analysis was made the costs would be found much higher than the benefits.

      You're modded funny, but I think this is more Insightful. The type speci

    • These types of name changes have prevented older publications from compiling nicely into modern libraries and vernacular for some time now. I propose we switch to some type of managed form of journalism---let's call it Journalism.NET---where these types of scientific references can be safely ported to new, more up to date word-ware paradigms!
      • by bmo (77928)

        "as if millions of authors suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

        --
        BMO

    • by cowtamer (311087)

      Science is full of confusing nomenclature that is sometimes made more confusing by the use of inside jokes, etc. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_hedgehog [slashdot.org], the Lunatic Fringe [wikipedia.org] gene, etc.

      I was upset when they split Monera into Archabacteria and Eubacteria (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-empire_system [slashdot.org] ), and when they demoed Pluto.

      I was also upset when they discontinued Crystal Pepsi.

      I guess the point is we have to live with the evolution of knowledge. I still want Crystal Pepsi back, and will mis

      • They conserve names in wide use, even if the names are no longer technically right. People do that all the time in ordinary language, without the benefit of a commission. That's why you're not calling "tea" a "camellia." (The valid name is Camellia sinensis, not Thea sinensis as it once was.)

        For some reason, the zoologists have never figured out this obvious solution. There aren't that many names in wide use, and it's easier for the scientists to remember an occasional exception than for millions of
    • This new name change will break thousands of studies which now references a fly does not exist.

      It happens in microbiology a lot. Pastuerella pestis became Yersinia pestis ... Bubonic Plague remained the same, and the old studies are still valid. How hard is it to set up a table of equivalents where Yersinia = Pasteurella

      Botany has been systematically reclassifying plants by their genome, moving dozens of species, eliminating others.

      Why should zoology be immune to change?

      • The problem is the sheer volume of literature, data, and code that refers to Drosophila melanogaster specifically -- or just to "Drosophila" where it's understood from context that it's D. melanogaster that's being referred to, since it's one of the designated model organisms. I'm currently working on a fly genomics problem, and when I say "I'm working with Drosophila data," everyone knows what I mean.

        This is a change roughly equivalent to the C standards committee deciding that the reserved word "for" wil

        • This is a change roughly equivalent to the C standards committee deciding that the reserved word "for" will be replaced with "of". Could it be done? Yes. Would it be a good idea? You decide on your own answer to that one.

          Difference being that your project won't crash if you accidentally type Drosophila.

          The split follows a core principle of nomenclature: when you have to fork the project, do it in a way that means the fewest number of species are affected. Keeping Drosophila melanogaster as a species wou

          • Difference being that your project won't crash if you accidentally type Drosophila.

            When the project involves large amounts of code, it very well might. And there are, at a guess, hundreds of thousands of lines of code scattered across thousands of projects that have "Drosophila" or some abbreviation for it, referring to D. melanogaster specifically, built in.

            The split follows a core principle of nomenclature: when you have to fork the project, do it in a way that means the fewest number of species are affected.

            And normally that makes sense, but when one particular species that's affected has the unique importance to the field that D. melanogaster has, blind adherence to principle starts to look like a really bad idea.

            It will be called "Drosophila" until the last of the old geezers who worked with it in college dies off ... that means you.

            Heh. I expect to have

            • but when one particular species that's affected has the unique importance to the field that D. melanogaster has, blind adherence to principle starts to look like a really bad idea.

              If you start making exceptions, you have no reliable rules. You have nomenclature that is spaghetti code. There were many arguments about why Pasteurells pestis should not be renamed, based on its "unique importance" and the fame of Pasteur (who still has most of that genus, just not the really famous one).

              It will be called "Droso

  • by ethogram (1094021) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:10AM (#31798962)
    The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) ruling addressed a request to name D. melanogaster as the type species for the genus. Under the rules of nomenclature, another species in the genus has naming priority. As long as the genus (currently more than 1400 species) remains intact there is no name change for melanogaster. However, the biologist who submitted the petition to protect the name D. melanogaster did so because a revision and splitting of Drosophila is long overdue (and is apparently interested in taking on the project). The ICZN did not make this decision lightly, it has been under review for a couple of years.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. Read the article. Mod summary down.

  • by Protoslo (752870) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:32AM (#31799004)

    "It was very difficult for the commissioners," says Ellinor Michel, the commission's executive secretary. "It was a question of celebrity, as everyone knows D. melanogaster."

    That would certainly be awkward...if we lose Drosophila melanogaster, the only full binomial I will know from memory will be Homo sapiens. I'll have to memorize the name Caenorhabditis (of C. elegans fame) or something, and that will truly be a tragedy.

    • by selven (1556643) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @11:37AM (#31799938)

      3x + 5

      There, you know two binomials again.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Off the top of my head:

      Cannabis sativa
      Psilocybe cubensis
      Lophophora Williamsii
      Echinopsis pachanoi
      Papaver somniferum
      Datura stramonium
      Theobroma cacao
      Coffea arabica

      Isn't botany (and mycology) fun?

    • by S77IM (1371931)

      Boa constrictor

    • by glwtta (532858)
      To shore up the numbers, memorize one of the ones where they just doubled up on the same root (presumably out of laziness): Mus musculus, Pan paniscus, Gallus gallus, etc.
      • Canis familiaris, Canis lupus...

        They decide if these are both Canis canis subspecies yet? I remember a wolf expert complaining that this should not be done because it might take away his livelihood some years ago.

        • by glwtta (532858)
          They decide if these are both Canis canis subspecies yet?

          I'm pretty sure that there is no such thing as "Canis familiaris", and Canis lupus familiaris is a subspecies of Canis lupus (as is Canis lupus lupus). Don't know if that's relatively recent, though.

          When looking for easy ones to remember, may as well go with Felis catus - that's got the common name right in it.
    • Here's an easy one for you: Turdus migratorius, or the American Robin. I learned that one when I was like 5, and remembered it solely because it had the word "Turd" in it. :-)
    • by SEE (7681)

      Nah, here's an easy one to memorize: Gorilla gorilla.

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @07:34AM (#31799008)

    Sophophora was Drosophila
    Now it's Sophophora, not Drosophila
    Not been a long time gone, Drosophila
    Now it's bug filled time on a moonlit night
    Every fly that was Drosophila
    Lives in Sophophora, not Drosophila
    So if you had a fly in Drosophila
    It'll be waiting in Sophophora
    Even old pluto, was once a planet
    Why they changed it I can't say
    People didn't like it better that way
    So take me back to Drosophila
    No, you can't go back to Drosophila
    Been a long time gone, Drosophila
    Why did Drosophila get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Scientists
    Sophophora (Sophophora)
    Sophophora (Sophophora)
    Even old pluto, was once a planet
    Why they changed it I can't say
    People didn't like it better that way
    Sophophora was Drosophila
    Now it's Sophophora, not Drosophila
    Not been a long time gone, Drosophila
    Why did Drosophila get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Scientists
    So take me back to Drosophila
    No, you can't go back to Drosophila
    Been a long time gone, Drosophila
    Why did Drosophila get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the scientists
    Sophophora

    (with apologies to They Might Be Giants)

    ---

    Ryan Fenton

  • And instead invent new ways to kill the bastards?

    Fruit flies seem to spontaneously generate ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_generation [wikipedia.org] ) in rotten fruit in my kitchen. I think Pasteur fudged some his data when disproving Spontaneous Generation.

    Although, scientists are doing their part to get rid of the fruit fly plague. If you are a fruit fly, your mostly likely cause of death will be a fruit fly genetics experiment . . . performed by a scientist!

    Or by over-eager high school biology students

    • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @09:06AM (#31799294)
      The best fruit fly trap is a bottle with a little bit of red wine left in it. The little buggers are crazy after the stuff, get in and can't escape. We used wine traps in the lab to hold the escaped fruit flies in check. Of course, you gotta renew the trap every couple of days...
      • by bmo (77928)

        They don't get drunk and wildly reproduce?

        I really do appreciate the fact you're sittin here
        Your voice sounds so wonderful
        But yer face don't look too clear
        So bar maid bring a pitcher, another round o brew
        Honey, why don't we get drunk and screw

        -Jimmy Buffet.

        --
        BMO

      • by autophile (640621)
        So that not even the little buggers themselves can remember their own name.
  • As long as they're still known as fruit flies, changing the scientific name shouldn't cause too much confusion. Anybody who really needs to know will easily pick up on the fact that there are two scientific names and eventually the old name will become archaic.

    • by dwye (1127395)

      > Anybody who really needs to know

      (italics added)

      For a snobbish redefinition of "really".

      > As long as they're still known as fruit flies,

      Regardless of what the zoologists name them, they will always be fruit flies to people with them in their kitchens, just as Buffalo Bill will not be renamed Bison Bill because the Plains Buffalo is "really" a bison, instead.

      OTOH, the people who know them as Drosophila melanogaster probably could care less that they are common kitchen pests. Or, for zoologists who co

  • If they'd stop doing genetic experiments on that poor fly all the time, they wouldn't "discover" so many new species after all.
  • But Sophophora melanOgaster.

    That is to say, with a dark intestine. But "sophophora" beats me. Definitely not wisdom-bearing. So what is it ? Geeks, help.

    • by pjt33 (739471)

      No, it is wisdom-bearing.

    • Well, "sophia" translates to "wisdom", "phorein" to "to carry" - I can't come up with any other translation than "the dark-bellied bearer of wisdom" myself, which admittedly seems a bit odd to me. Gotta ask the local greek-geek at work on Monday if I missed any other root for "sopho-".
      • I can't come up with any other translation than "the dark-bellied bearer of wisdom" myself, which admittedly seems a bit odd to me.

        Presumably "drisophila" means dew loving [wikipedia.org], so is "dark bellied dew lover" any more 'scientific' than 'dark bellied bearer of wisdom'?

        Seems Greek to me.

        • Oh, I am not questioning the "scientific" nature of the name - just wondering how it came to be named like it. It is not like scientist are dead earnest in naming stuff. You should have a look at the names for certain drosophila mutations... "tinman" - having no heart; "lost in space" - abnormal axon projection; "ken and barbie" - no external genitalia"; "tribbles" - uncontrolled cell division; "smaug" - gene that represses the "dwarf" gene, "ring" - the Really Interesting New Gene.... It is a nerdy busines
  • Historical Precedent (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This ain't just some fruit fly. This is the fruit fly. The one Thomas Hunt Morgan [wikipedia.org] chose to study.

    "In his famous Fly Room at Columbia University Morgan was able to demonstrate that genes are carried on chromosomes and are the mechanical basis of heredity."

    (wikipedia). Drosophila melanogaster [wikipedia.org] was also the model organism that was used in studies that led to the discovery of hox genes [wikipedia.org]. And before the best and the brightest flash their union card credentials and poo poo the lay people let's not forget similar memorable fiascoes where scientists themselves refused to get on board with sensible taxonomy [wikipedia.org] name changes. For example in immunology the innate immune system

  • stupid dumbshits (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Drosophila melanogaster is THE species - and the only species - that scientists have simply decided to coalesce around and study in comprehensive detail. It has been the species for studying recessive and dominant genes. It is the first species to have its genome sequenced. Etc etc etc. Scientists simply decided long ago that they will get an economy of scale by pooling their papers around this species. It's a little bit similar to the old pool of resources and knowledge in the "Windows" name.

    Microsoft

    • Drosophila melanogaster is THE species - and the only species - that scientists have simply decided to coalesce around and study in comprehensive detail.

      Well, that's not quite true; it's one of a number of designated "model organisms" which are being studied in this way. But it's undeniably one of the most important. And yeah, Microsoft changing the name of Windows is a pretty good analogy.

      I see no possible way this can end well.

  • Which is the genus for button cacti (f.e. the peyote (lophophora williamsii)). What does Sophophora mean? What does Lophophora mean?
  • A quick Wiki finds they've had since 1939 to change the species name...no point getting their pants in a twist now ;)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophophora [wikipedia.org]

  • I fucking hate flies no matter how interesting the name sounds!
  • Are they (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    going to change the name of time flies too?

  • The thing to worry about here is what happens when another 2000 species come up again and again. Keep in mind that there will be extensive creation of new species due to research on this particular organism, maybe even some species creation in the field. The current solution will need to be repeated and unless they come up with a better approach, it'll break old research. My take is that the approach doesn't really work. Reading through the comments, I came across the following:

    For the record, I also think that Drosophila should be split because having 1450 species in a single genus is simply insanely impractical. Unlike the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows only two ranks (the subgenus and the "group of species") between the genus and the species, so using subdivisions within the genus is not an option, and this means many clades within Drosophila cannot be named as long as it keeps being that large. However, the ICZN does not restrict the number of species per genus at all; people who are happy to keep 1450 species within Drosophila are free to do so.

    Adding another layer of ranks

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JoeD (12073)

      It wasn't the the number of species in the genus that prompted this. It was the genetic analysis of those species that revealed that they were not as closely related as people thought.

  • Apatosaurus? Bah! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoeD (12073) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @10:09AM (#31799568) Homepage

    It's still Brontosaurus to me.

  • If the naming system was built right you would still see the relationship of different subspecies even when splitting is done.

    It probably is an old discussion but I wonder, shouldn't taxonomy use more than 2 names, or perhaps use syllables to indicate relationships?

    Is there a numerical system, perhaps like IP dot notation, or something else, that handles this more gracefully? If a numerical system existed that matches the relationships borne out by analysis of dna and the like, then maybe that should be the

  • ... feels better, now.
  • Or perhaps because of most scientists main interest in it: A fly by any other name would breed as much.
  • Jeff Goldblum :(
  • The name of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster will change to Sophophora melangaster.

    [My emphasis added.] It's Sophophora melanOgaster.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday April 10, 2010 @08:10PM (#31803336) Homepage

    This is standard operating procedure for systematics and has been for a century or so. It happens all the time. International codes spell out exactly how it all works. Systematists have agreed long ago that this is the way it should be and scientists take it in stride. These scientific names are created and managed to meet specific needs of working scientists. It should be of no more consequence to nonspecialists than changing "cycles per second" to "Hz" or "carbonic acid" to "carbon dioxide" or changes in IUPAC rules.

    The horseshoe crab was Limulus polyphemus, then Xiphosura polyphemus, then Limulus polyphemus again.

    In 1962 Theodore Savory wrote, in Naming the Living World: "The second belief, apparently held by many, is that a change of name is a serious, almost a catastrophic occurrence, but in everyday life outside the lab this is simply not true; and a biologist may be reminded that both his mother and his wife have survived the same metamorphosis. The third fallacy is that the possession by an organism of two or three [different scientific] names imposes upon biologists that it is beyond their capacities to carry. This could be true only if zoologists, for example, were expected or needed to be familiar with every animal, whereas nearly all active zoologists today are either physiologists, who do not seem to care about nomenclature, or specialists concerned with only one group, large or small but essentially limited."

    The scientific names of organisms serve a number of functions. One is to be sure that scientists working worldwide know what organism is being referred to, and avoiding problems with common names such as "daddy long-legs" or "nightingale..." or, for that matter, "fruit fly" which describes at least two different families of insect.

    Another is to reflect the systematic relationships of species as best known. As knowledge evolves, names evolve.

    Biologists agreed on the best way to handle this long ago. It's not at all analogous to Pluto. There are less than ten planets, and there are over a million species of animals and plants. If you think scientists can get all of them right and never change any of them, think again.

    If you write a scientific paper, you have a choice: call it Sophophora melanogaster or Drosophila melanogaster. If you call it Drosophila, likely someone will insist on correcting it, but maybe not. Either way it is not going to be a problem and is not going to cause "chaos in the literature" because everyone who knows the species by its scientific name will know about the change. Nobody is going to get confused. Automated searches will get cross-references just like card catalog did.

    And if you're not doing professional science, just go on calling them "fruit flies." Just like "Baltimore orioles."

  • There have always been entities, classes, and attributes that have multiple accepted names, and there have always been name changes in the face of new understanding or new fashions. Humans are perfectly capable of remembering that, for example, "Apatosaurus" is the proper name for what we used to call "Brontosaurus", or that "canola oil" is a less hackle-raising name for "rapeseed oil". It's our indexing systems and search engines that have problems, and ontological/semantic annotation can solve those pro

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

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