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Lots of things new under the sun

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brachiosteve

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Motivated by our valued member, Charles Cameron from a recent post on a huge, man sized leaf discovery. Palm leaves can grow to 20m though!

To my knowledge, there is no site or authority, one can go or be directed to, that logs or registers new species. What usually happens, is that dedicated databases of taxa, like the Reptile database for example, keep a look out in the literature and in related news articles. There is no obligation for anyone to register anything anywhere. So, amateur naturalists and professional researchers alike, who come across something, which is or may be new, might not know or be focused or interested (or have no time to log) something new, and any reference may be incidental in their writing. That means, anyone looking to find new species to keep their records up to date, will sometimes have no way of knowing that a new species was discovered, because the research (and its title and key word search) will not indicate this. I, myself fell victim to this. I discovered a snake in the Americas. It was venomous, and possibly the most venomous on the continent. I took photos, checked with the local Audubon society and the local zoo, and assumed that specialists may be interested in it and recognise it. Unfortunately (but thanks to the rigours of scientific scrutiny), I did not know the etiquette of what was required to prove my finding to science. I left the continent without the ability to bring it back home. Years passed, and when I went to the Natural history museum in London, the difficulty was explained to me. Possible digital editing, how was it known that it was not found elsewhere, imported or a pet or where the photos were taken? If it was a holotype, maybe it was a mutant etc.

In fact, there may well be many mistaken species, and sometimes they get spotted. If we went through museum collections with a fine tooth comb, we would also find many new species, and in fact that is what some people do. You could do it yourself if you show good reason and intent, as there are simply not enough people/time to do it.

There are regulations for uncovering fossils and minerals, buried treasure and archaeological findings, with regard to declaring them or handing them over. In the UK, it is illegal to even go and, ‘observe’ smooth snakes, due to their scarcity.

I propose, especially in our current, climatic situation, that there should be legislation or even just an agreed voluntary protocol, to have to submit any findings, be it after a casual walk in the park, a big dig or a field research project, that anything relating to potential new identifications be referred to a specific source. And I propose that source be the Phylogeny Explorer Project, or one of 2 or three options, but have a shared link to ensure it reaches all of the key, international databases, if/when a new species is officially identified. It seems crazy that there is no such process in place, but if you look at the laws and penalties for things like animal cruelty, chemical pollution and other biological or environmental crimes, one begins to see how, only one species really matters.

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/11/amazon-tree-giant-leaves-coccoloba-gigantifolia-new-species-brazil/?fbclid=IwAR2P2sb_wjQDcGBmXdP3eJ-YBjsQe40IbU5YtlKiWL1Ux--sUrbv3hqsU_M

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