Thursday, 8 January 2015

Snail named for cement company that could make it extinct

January 6, 2015

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

For the first time ever, a newly-discovered species has been named after a corporation that could decide whether or not it becomes extinct.

Call it eco-blackmail or savvy conservationism, the naming of the recently-found Charopa lafargei snail is a direct attempt to save it, as concrete conglomerate LaFarge is currently in the middle of excavating the limestone hill that could be its sole habitat on Earth.

Located in Peninsular Malaysia, the limestone hill is slowly being converted into a quarry by LaFarge, which harvests the stone as a raw material for cement production. The land set aside for the quarry has also recently yielded other new species – including another snail, three plants, a trapdoor spider and a new type of bent-toed gecko.

Generally speaking, the process of naming a new species isn’t driven by whimsy. First the unique organism has to be described and revealed to be currently unknown to science. The candidate is then designated with a new two-part name, typically based in Latin or Greek. Like a person’s family or last name, the first part of the new species’ name is the smallest group it’s mostly closely related to – the genus in scientific nomenclature. The second part is unique to the organism.

The second part of species names are often selected to celebrate a person who played a role in its discovery, for instance the biologist who first discovered it or a sponsor who funded the discoverer’s work. However, in the case of Charopa lafargei the name was chosen somewhat ironically as the company could cause the snail’s extinction.

“We name this species Charopa lafargei after Lafarge whose declared goals for biodiversity include minimising and avoiding damage to important habitats, minimising and avoiding species mortality and stress, and minimising and reversing habitat fragmentation,” the team responsible for the snail’s naming recently wrote in a report published by the journal Basteria.

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