"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Friday, November 11, 2005

In Other News, a Newly Discovered Species of Hedgehog Has Been Named "Erinaceus spinynormani" 

We're wild about lemurs in our family, ever since my son got hooked on Zoboomafoo. And so I'm especially pleased to learn that a newly discovered species of lemur has been named after my all-time favorite comedian:
Known for his work in highlighting their plight, comedian John Cleese has now had a new species of lemur named after him.

The avahi [sic] cleesei was discovered in western Madagascar in 1990 by a team of scientists from Zurich University.

Now the researchers have named the primate - which weighs less than a kilo - after the Monty Python star.

Lemurs are considered the most endangered of all primates and live only on Madagascar.

About that "[sic]" in the above quotation: Almost every news site carrying this story reports the name of the beast as "avahi cleesei," but genus names are always capitalized (just as species names never are). The correct designation is thus "Avahi cleesei." It's a small point, but in a world where a majority of all Americans are so scientifically illiterate that they doubt the validity of the theory of evolution (leading me to fear that a substantial plurality is open to the possibility that disease is caused by evil spirits), it would be nice if science reporters demonstrated even the most elementary scientific education. For what it's worth, the Mirror got it right.

Oh, and by the way:
The lemur's long legs are the only physical attribute it shares with Cleese, [anthropologist Urs] Thalmann told New Scientist magazine. "Woolly lemurs can't really walk -- but they do enjoy silly jumps," he said.

 

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