Species discovery

We have recently focused on a number of issues relative to the species discovery process, because any informed decisions concerning global taxonomic priorities requires an understanding of how species are discovered and revised.

We have shown: that on average there is a lag period of 35 years between collection and description of new species (see here); a very large proportion of type specimens are collected by a few 'big hitter' collectors i.e. 50% of all type specimens have been collected by 2% of collectors (see here). We have also explored, for flowering plants, why the increasing number of authors associated with species discovery do not reflect an increase in taxonomic capacity as has been claimed in recent literature (see here). Most recently we have shown that more than 50% of the world's natural history collections may not have a correct name.

Example publications

  • Goodwin, Z.A., Harris, D.J., Filer, D., Wood, J.R.I. & R.W. Scotland (2015). Widespread mistaken identity in tropical plant collections. Current Biology 25(22): 1066-1067.DOI:
  • Daniel P. Bebber, John R. I. Wood, Christine Barker, Robert W. Scotland (2013). Author inflation masks global capacity for species discovery in flowering plants. New Phytologist (2014) . doi: 10.1111/nph.12522
  • Daniel P. Bebber, Mark A. Carine, John R. I. Wood, Alexandra H. Wortley, David J. Harris, Ghillean T. Prance, Gerrit Davidse, Jay Paige, Terry D. Pennington, Norman K. B. Robson, and Robert W. Scotland (2010). Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery. PNAS 107 no 51. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011841108
  • Superstars of botany: Rare specimens