Within the world of taxonomy — the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms — there are prolific people, and Raymond Hoser, an Australian researcher, is one of those. This interesting information came to us from the Smithsonian magazine in their article, “A Few Bad Scientists Are Threatening to Topple Taxonomy.”

By volume, Hoser is a taxonomy maven. Between 2000 and 2012 alone, Hoser named three-quarters of all new genera and subgenera of snakes. Overall, he has named over 800 taxa, including dozens of snakes and lizards. However, other prominent taxonomists and herpetologists take issue with those numbers. According to them, Hoser isn’t a prolific scientist at all. What he’s really mastered is a very specific kind of scientific “crime”: taxonomic vandalism.

Like any library, taxonomy is only as good as its librarians, and now a few rogue taxonomists are threatening to expose the flaws within the system. Taxonomic vandals are those who name scores of new taxa without presenting sufficient evidence for their finds.

Sadly, taxonomic vandalism isn’t a new problem. Similar to plagiarists, these glory-seeking scientists use other people’s original research in order to justify their so-called discoveries.

Melody K. Smith

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