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Insights from Zootaxa on potential trends in zoological taxonomic activity

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Author(s): Tancoigne Elise | Bole Cyprien | Sigogneau Anne | Dubois Alain

Journal: Frontiers in Zoology
ISSN 1742-9994

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2011;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background An opinion currently shared by taxonomists and non taxonomists alike is that the work of inventorying biodiversity is unbalanced: firstly, in favour of countries in which taxonomy has been studied for a long time, and, secondly, in favour of vertebrates. In the current context of threats of species extinction, access for taxonomists to biological material and information becomes crucial if the scientific community really aims at a better knowledge of biological diversity before it is severely and irreversibly impoverished. We performed an analysis of 748 papers published in Zootaxa in 2006 and 2007, as well as 434 questionnaires sent to their authors to test these opinions. A generalization of these results to zoological taxonomy as a whole is discussed. Discussion We found that the disequilibrium is not exactly what it usually considered to be. The USA, China and Brazil are currently the three leading countries in zoological taxonomy. Each of them presents, however, a different pattern. Taxonomists from Asia and South America are younger and mainly work in universities, not museums. A bias in favour of vertebrates still exists if we refer to the effort invested in each group to produce taxonomic data, but not to the number of papers. Finally, we insist on the idea that "describing a species" is very different from "knowing a species". Summary The taxonomic involvement of a country, in terms of manpower and funding, appears to be a key factor in the development of fruitful taxonomic research. This message seems to have been understood by the countries that recently decided to increase considerably their taxonomic involvement. It still has to be received by those who did not.
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