Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Taxonomy is rock

Have just spent a rather happy half hour trying to work out the higher classification of Orthoptera (that's crickets and grasshoppers to the rest of the world). I was very pleased to find that it is just as confusing for this group as for any other- there are no good references and people seem to have a complete inability to just put things simply. It makes me feel a lot better about my scientific writing style let me tell you; they even manage to make my day to day typing look like shorthand. I also got to look at lots of pretty pictures of insects under the heading of work. Hah! What could be better? I just don't get it when someone doesn't understand the fascination.
For instance, take mole crickets. Not only do they have big splayed front legs for digging burrows, spend much of their time underground and are covered in soft velvety fur, but they also shape their burrows so that the sound is amplified when they sing. It took humans freaking ages to work that one out and there they are; tiny, preprogrammed and without any real brain, singing away through a home dug amplifier. Tell me that that's not awesome?
To cap it all off we are still trying to work out how these things are all related to each other. We argue constantly in the literature about whether something is basal, ancient, closely or distantly related, what a group is and what should be in it. So much work to do and no time to do it in! especially if you keep distracting yourself with pretty pictures like me... :)

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