Monday, May 21, 2007

Quote of the Day and Species Inflation

“No science in the world is more elevated, more necessary and more useful than economics.”

~Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist, born three centuries ago this week, who is better remembered for devising the system used to this day to classify living organisms.


The Economist mentions Carl Linnaeus in an article about the recent "species inflation." For example, there are twice as many primate species (monkey, ape and lemur) today compared to the 1960s, not because any new discoveries, but because a lot of established subspecies have been reclassified as species, especially in the limited group of big, showy animals that the public, as opposed to the experts, care about. Why the species inflation?

1. A species becoming extinct is easy to grasp, and thus easy to make laws about. Subspecies just do not carry as much political clout.

2. Upgrading subspecies into species simultaneously increases the number of rare species (by fragmenting populations) and augments the biodiversity of a piece of habitat and thus its claim for protection.

Read more about species inflation here.

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