Information

When writing about past research should I use the species name they employed or the modern version?

When writing about past research should I use the species name they employed or the modern version?



We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

I am currently writing a literature review in which I am talking about the old research on the subject. When this research was carried out the species I'm talking about were classed under a different genus (specifically, it used to be called Vibrio fetus and is now called Campylobacter fetus). What is the correct approach for choosing when to use the older name and when to use the newer name? I see three options, although there may be more:

  1. Always use the modern name.
  2. Use the name used by the authors when discussing their work.
  3. Largely use the modern name but make reference to the fact a different name was employed where it is appropriate to do so.

I'm tending towards option 3, but it's sometimes a bit unwieldy. Is there an accepted convention I should be following?


3. is right thing to do. You can mention in the introduction that "Campylobacter fetus, which was previously known as Vibrio fetus [Ref]… "

You should not use the old name anywhere again (also for the sake of consistency), once you have made it clear that the species was renamed, in the Introduction.

I don't think there is any written convention like that (As such usage of any obsoleted terms is to be avoided and the standard nomenclature as described by ICZN/ICBN etc should be used).


There actually is a rule, called the 'Principle of Priority', which states that the nomenclature of a taxonomic group is based upon priority of publication hence option 2 in your question is the correct approach. In the principle III (Principle of Priority) section of the link above it is stated that

This principle states, in essence, that if a taxonomic group has been given two or more names, the correct name is the first name that meets the Code's standards for publication.

But here the rule doesn't seem to apply… instead there is a piece of literature regarding the reclassification of gen. Vibrio to Campylobacter. In the paper "Neotype Strain for the Type Species,Campylobacter fetus (Smith and Taylor) Sebald and Vkon" (Veron & Chatelain, 1973) they state that:

A critical study of the present state of the classification of vibrio-like, curved, microaerophilic bacteria was made. The species originally described under the names Vibrio coli Doyle, V. jejuni Jones et al., V. sputorum PrCvot, and V. bubulus Florent are transferred to the genus Campylobacter Sebald and VCron 1963. The authors suggest that the type species of this genus, C. fetus, be divided into two subspecies: C. fetus subsp. fetus (Smith and Taylor) comb. nov. (syn. V. fetus subsp. intestinalis Florent), which contains the neotype strain of the species, and C. fetus subsp. venerealis (Florent) comb. nov. The previously described subspecies V. fetus subsp. intermedius Elazhari is regarded as an infrasubspecific taxon with the name C. fetus subsp. venerealis biotype intermedius. CIP 5396 (=ATCC 27374=NCTC 10842) is proposed as the neotype strain of C. fetus subsp. fetus. This strain, then, is also the neotype strain of C. fetus (Smith and Taylor) Sebald and Vkron.

The highlighted words suggest how they have approached in naming the species…


How to Do Your Part to Prevent Animal Extinction

This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards.

There are 21 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 16 testimonials and 83% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 185,735 times.

Scientists predict we're on the verge of the Sixth Mass Extinction. This is a global event in which three-quarters of all species become extinct. Many scientists feel human activity is causing increased extinction rates. If you want to help, there are many small and big changes you can make. Strive for a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, get involved politically, and enlist the help of others. [1] X Research source


Learn More About The Research Process

I have a popular post called Teach Students How To Research Online In 5 Steps that I first published in 2012 and have updated regularly since. It outlines a five-step approach to break down the research process into manageable chunks.

Want more details on this five step research process? I can email you a copy of an eBook I put together. It includes three posters to use in your classroom. Enter your details here.

This post shares ideas for mini-lessons that could be carried out in the classroom throughout the year to help build students’ skills in the five areas of: clarify, search, delve, evaluate, and cite. It also includes ideas for learning about staying organised throughout the research process.

Notes about the 50 research activities:

  • These ideas can be adapted for different age groups from middle primary/elementary to senior high school.
  • Many of these ideas can be repeated throughout the year.
  • Depending on the age of your students, you can decide whether the activity will be more teacher or student led. Some activities suggest coming up with a list of words, questions, or phrases. Teachers of younger students could generate these themselves.
  • Depending on how much time you have, many of the activities can be either quickly modelled by the teacher, or extended to an hour-long lesson.
  • Some of the activities could fit into more than one category.
  • Looking for simple articles for younger students for some of the activities? Try DOGO News or Time for Kids. Newsela is also a great resource but you do need to sign up for free account.
  • Why not try a few activities in a staff meeting? Everyone can always brush up on their own research skills!

Onto the ideas! Here is a PDF summary for you and you can read a more detailed description of each activity below.

I’d love you to share your own ideas for lessons and activities in a comment.


Glossary of Commonly Used Terms in Research Ethics

Note: This glossary is intended for educational or research purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace or contravene existing laws or institutional policies. Send comments to: [email protected] . Many of the definitions are based on Shamoo AE and Resnik DB, Responsible Conduct of Research, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Accountability: taking personal responsibility for one&rsquos conduct.

Accreditation: a process in which an accrediting body determines whether an institution or organization meets certain standards developed by the body. For example, the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) accredits animal research programs, and the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP) accredits human subjects research programs.

Adverse event (AE): a medically undesirable event occurring in a research subject, such as an abnormal sign, symptom, worsening of a disease, injury, etc. A serious adverse event (SAE) results in death, hospitalization (or increased hospital stay), persistent disability, birth defect, or any other outcome that seriously jeopardizes the subject&rsquos health. AEs which are also unanticipated problems should be reported promptly to institutional review boards and other appropriate officials.

Amendment: a change to a human subjects research protocol approved by an institutional review board or the board&rsquos chair (if the change is minor).

Animal rights: the view that (non-human) animals have moral or legal rights. Proponents of animal rights tend to regard animal experimentation as unethical because animals cannot consent to research.

Animal welfare: 1. The health and well-being of animals. 2. The ethical obligation to protect and promote animal welfare in research. Factors affecting animal welfare include: food, water, housing, climate, mental stimulation, and freedom from pain, suffering, disease, and disability. See also Three Rs.

Asilomar Conference: a meeting of scientists, held in Asilomar, CA in 1975, who were involved in development recombinant DNA techniques concerning the oversight of responsible use of this technology. The scientists recommended the development of safety protocols as a means of protecting laboratory workers and the public from harm.

Assent: a subject&rsquos affirmative agreement to participate in research. Assent may take place when the subject does not have the capacity to provide informed consent (e.g. the subject is a child or mentally disabled) but has the capacity to meaningfully assent. See Informed Consent.

Audit: a formal review of research records, policies, activities, personnel, or facilities to ensure compliance with ethical or legal standards or institutional policies. Audits may be conducted regularly, at random, or for-cause (i.e. in response to a problem).

Author: a person who makes a significant contribution to a creative work. Many journal guidelines define an author as someone who makes a significant contribution to 1) research conception and design, 2) data acquisition, or 3) data analysis or interpretation and who drafts or critically reads the paper and approves the final manuscript.

Authorship, ghost: failing to list someone as an author on a work even though they have made a significant contribution to it.

Authorship, honorary: receiving authorship credit when one has not made a significant contribution to the work.

Autonomy: 1. the capacity for self-governance, i.e. the ability to make reasonable decisions. 2. A moral principle barring interference with autonomous decision-making. See Decision-making capacity.

Bad apples theory: the idea that most research misconduct is committed by individuals who are morally corrupt or psychologically ill. This idea can be contrasted with the view that social, financial, institutional, and cultural factors play a major role in causing research misconduct. See Culture of integrity.

Belmont Report: A report issued by the U.S. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioral Research in 1979, which has had a significant influence over human subjects research ethics, regulation, and policy. The report provided a conceptual foundation for the Common Rule and articulated three principles of ethics: respect for persons, beneficence, and justice.

Beneficence: the ethical obligation to do good and avoid causing harm. See also Belmont Report.

Benefit: a desirable outcome or state of affairs, such as medical treatment, clinically useful information, or self-esteem. In the oversight of human subjects research, money is usually not treated as a benefit.

Bias: the tendency for research results to reflect the scientist&rsquos (or sponsor's) subjective opinions, unproven assumptions, political views, or personal or financial interests, rather than the truth or facts. See also Conflict of Interest.

Biobank: a repository for storing biological samples or data to be used in research. Biobanks usually require investigators or institutions to agree to certain conditions as a condition for sharing samples or data with them.

Bioethics: the study of ethical, social, or legal issues arising in biomedicine and biomedical research.

Censorship: taking steps to prevent or deter the public communication of information or ideas. In science, censorship may involve prohibiting the publication of research or allowing publication only in redacted form (with some information removed).

Citation amnesia: failing to cite important work in the field in a paper, book, or presentation.

Classified research: research that the government keeps secret to protect national security. Access to classified research is granted to individuals with the appropriate security clearance on a need-to-know basis.

Clinical investigator: a researcher involved in conducting a clinical trial.

Clinical trial: an experiment designed to test the safety or efficacy of a type of therapy (such as a drug).

Clinical trial, active controlled: a clinical trial in which the control group receives a treatment known to be effective. The goal of the trial is to compare different treatments.

Clinical trial, placebo controlled: a clinical trial in which the control group receives a placebo. The goal of the trial is to compare a treatment to a placebo.

Clinical trial, phases: sequential stages of clinical testing, required by regulatory agencies, used in the development of medical treatments. Pre-clinical testing involves experiments on animals or cells to estimate safety and potential efficacy. Phase I trials are small studies (50-100 subjects) conducted in human beings for the first time to assess safety, pharmacology, or dosing. Phase I studies are usually conducted on healthy volunteers though some are conducted on patients with terminal diseases, such as cancer patients. Phase II trials are larger studies (500 or more subjects) conducted on patients with a disease to assess safety and efficacy and establish a therapeutic dose. Phase III trials are large studies (up to several thousand subjects) conducted on patients to obtain more information on safety and efficacy. Phase IV (or post-marketing) studies are conducted after a treatment has been approved for marketing to gather more information on safety and efficacy and to expand the range of the population being treated.

Clinical trial, registration: providing information about a clinical trial in a public registry. Most journals and funding agencies require that clinical trials be registered. Registration information includes the name of the trial, the sponsor, study design and methods, population, inclusion/exclusion criteria, and outcome measures.

Clinical utility: the clinical usefulness of information, e.g. for making decisions concerning diagnosis, prevention, or treatment.

Coercion: using force, threats, or intimidation to make a person comply with a demand.

Collaboration agreement: an agreement between two or more collaborating research groups concerning the conduct of research. The agreement may address the roles and responsibilities of the scientists, access to data, authorship, and intellectual property.

Commercialization: the process of developing and marketing commercial products (e.g. drugs, medical devices, or other technologies) from research. See also Copyrights, Intellectual Property, Patents.

Common law: a body of law based on judicial decisions and rulings.

Common Rule: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations (45 CFR 46) for protecting human subjects, which has been adopted by 17 federal agencies. The Common Rule includes subparts with additional protections for children, neonates, pregnant women and fetuses, and prisoners.

Community review: a process for involving a community in the review of research conducted on members of the community. Some research studies include community advisory boards as a way of involving the community.

Competence: the legal right to make decisions for one&rsquos self. Adults are considered to be legally competent until they are adjudicated incompetent by a court. See Decision-making capacity.

Compliance: in research, complying with laws, institutional policies and ethical guidelines related to research.

Conduct: Action or behavior. For example, conducting research involves performing actions related to research, such as designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing data, and so on.

Confidentiality: the obligation to keep some types of information confidential or secret. In science, confidential information typically includes: private data pertaining to human subjects, papers or research proposals submitted for peer review, personnel records, proceedings from misconduct inquiries or investigations, and proprietary data. See also Privacy.

Conflict of interest (COI): a situation in which a person has a financial, personal, political or other interest which is likely to bias his or her judgment or decision-making concerning the performance of his or her ethical or legal obligations or duties.

Conflict of interest, apparent or perceived: a situation in which a person has a financial, personal, political or other interest that is not likely to bias his or her judgment or decision-making concerning the performance of his or her ethical or legal obligation or duties but which may appear to an outside observer to bias his or her judgement or decision-making.

Conflict of interest, institutional: a situation in which an institution (such as a university) has financial, political, or other interests which are likely to bias institutional decision-making concerning the performance of institutional ethical or legal duties.

Conflict of interest, management: strategies for minimizing the adverse impacts of a conflict of interest, such as disclosure, oversight, or recusal/prohibition.

Consent: See Informed consent.

Consequentialism: an approach to ethics, such as utilitarianism, which emphasizes maximizing good over bad consequences resulting from actions or policies.

Continuing review: in human subjects research, subsequent review of a study after it has been approved by an IRB. Continuing review usually happens on an annual basis.

Copyright: a right, granted by a government, which prohibits unauthorized copying, performance, or alteration of creative works. Copyright laws include a fair use exemption which allows limited, unauthorized uses for non-commercial purposes.

Correction (or errata): fixing a minor problem with a published paper. A minor problem is one that does not impact the reliability or integrity of the data or results. Journals publish correction notices and identify corrected papers in electronic databases to alert the scientific community to problems with the paper. See also Retraction.

Culture of integrity: the idea that the institutional culture plays a key role in preventing research misconduct and promoting research integrity. Strategies to promote a culture of integrity include education and mentoring in the responsible conduct of research research policy development institutional support for research ethics oversight, consultation, and curriculum development and ethical leadership.

Emergency research: in human subjects research, research that is conducted when a subject who cannot provide informed consent faces a life-threatening illness that requires immediate treatment and has no available legally authorized representative to provide consent. The Food and Drug Administration has developed special rules for emergency research involving products that it regulates.

Error: an unintended adverse outcome a mistake.

Ethical dilemma: A situation in which two or more potential actions appear to be equally justifiable from an ethical point of view, i.e. one must choose between the lesser of two evils or the greater of two goods.

Ethical reasoning: Making a decision in response to a moral dilemma based a careful and thorough assessment of the different options in light of the facts and circumstances and ethical considerations.

Ethical relativism: The view that ethical standards are relative to a particular culture, society, historical period, etc. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. See Ethical universalism.

Ethical theory: A set of statements that attempts to unify, systematize, and explain our moral experience, i.e. our intuitions or judgments about right/wrong, good/bad, etc. See Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Virtue ethics.

Ethical universalism: The view that the same standards of ethics apply to all people at all times.

Ethics (or morals): 1. Standards of conduct (or behavior) that distinguish between right/wrong, good/bad, etc. 2. The study of standards of conduct.

Ethics, applied: The study of ethics in specific situations, professions, or institutions, e.g. medical ethics, research ethics, etc.

Ethics, meta-: The study of the meaning, truth, and justification of ethical statements.

Ethics, normative vs. descriptive: Normative ethics studies the standards of conduct and methods of reasoning that people ought to follow. Descriptive ethics studies the standards of conduct and reasoning processes that people in fact follow. Normative ethics seeks to prescribe and evaluate conduct, whereas descriptive ethics seeks to describe and explain conduct. Disciplines such as philosophy and religious studies take a normative approach to ethics, whereas sociology, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology take a descriptive approach.

Exempt research: human subjects research which is exempted from review by an institutional review board. Some types of exempt research include research on existing human samples or data in which the researcher cannot readily identify individuals and anonymous surveys of individuals.

Exculpatory language: language in an informed consent form, contract, or other document intended to excuse a party from legal liability.

Expedited review: in human subjects research, review of a study by the chair of an institutional review board (or designee) instead of by the full board. Expedited review may be conducted on new studies that pose minimal risks to subjects, for continuing review in which a study is no longer recruiting subjects, or on amendments to approved studies that make only minor changes.

Exploitation: taking unfair advantage of someone else.

Expression of concern: a journal may publish an expression of concern when a paper has come under suspicion for wrongdoing or is being investigated for possible research misconduct.

Fabrication: making up data or results.

Falsification: changing, omitting, or manipulating data or results deceptively or deceptive manipulation of research materials or experiments.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): a federal agency in charge of approving the marketing of drugs, biologics, medical devices, cosmetics, and food additives. The FDA has adopted human subjects research regulations which are similar to the Common Rule however, the FDA rules do not allow exceptions from informed consent requirements unless a study qualifies as Emergency research.

Fraud: knowingly misrepresenting the truth or concealing a material (or relevant) fact to induce someone to make a decision to his or her detriment. Some forms of research misconduct may also qualify as fraud. A person who commits fraud may face civil or criminal legal liability.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): a law enacted in the U.S. and other countries which allows the public to obtain access to government documents, including documents related to government-funded scientific research, such as data, protocols, and emails. Several types of documents are exempt from FOIA requests, including classified research and confidential information pertaining to human subjects research.

Good clinical practices (GCPs): rules and procedures for conducting clinical trials safely and rigorously.

Good laboratory practices (GLPs): rules and procedures for designing and performing experiments or tests and recording and analyzing data rigorously. Some types of research are required by law to adhere to GLPs.

Good manufacturing practices (GMPs): rules and procedures for manufacturing a product (such as a drug) according to standards of quality and consistency.

Good record-keeping practices (GRKPs): rules and procedures for keeping research records. Records should be thorough, accurate, complete, organized, signed and dated, and backed-up.

Guideline: a non-binding recommendation for conduct.

Harassment: unwelcome (e.g. aggressive, offensive, intimidating, inappropriate) conduct in the workplace based on one's race, gender, sexual identity, national origin, age, religion, or disability status. Harassment can be physical or non-physical and may be unwelcome because it creates a hostile work environment or because submitting to or rejecting the conduct is likely to result in actions favorable or dis-favorable to the employee (i.e. "quod pro quo" harassment).

Harassment, sexual: harassment involving unwelcome sexual advances or remarks or requests for sexual favors.

Helsinki Declaration: ethical guidelines for conducting medical research involving human subjects research adopted by the World Medical Association.

Honesty: the ethical obligation to tell the truth and avoid deceiving others. In science, some types of dishonesty include data fabrication or falsification, and plagiarism.

Human subjects research: research involving the collection, storage, or use of private data or biological samples from living individuals by means of interactions, interventions, surveys, or other research methods or procedures.

Incidental finding: information inadvertently discovered during medical treatment or research which was not intentionally sought. For example, if a research subject receives an MRI as part of brain imaging study and the researcher notices an area in the fontal cortex that appears to be a tumor this information would be an incidental finding.

Individualized research results: in human subjects research, results pertaining to a specific individual in a study, such as the subject&rsquos pulse, blood pressure, or the results of laboratory tests (e.g. blood sugar levels, blood cell counts, genetic or genomic variants). Individualized results may include intended findings or incidental findings. There is an ongoing ethical controversy concerning whether, when, and how individualized research results should be shared with human subjects research. Some argue that individualized results should be returned if they are based on accurate and reliable tests and have clinical utility, because inaccurate, unreliable, or uncertain results may be harmful. Others claim that the principle of autonomy implies that subjects should be able to decide whether to receive their results.

Informed consent: the process of making a free and informed decision (such as to participate in research). Individuals who provide informed consent must be legally competent and have enough decision-making capacity to consent to research. Research regulations specify the types of information that must be disclosed to the subject. See also Assent.

Informed consent, blanket (general): a provision in an informed consent document that gives general permission to researchers to use the subject&rsquos data or samples for various purposes and share them with other researchers.

Informed consent, documentation: a record (such as a form) used to document the process of consent. Research regulations require that consent be documented however, an institutional review board may decide to waive documentation of consent if the research is minimal risk and 1) the principle risk of the study is breach of confidentiality and the only record linking the subject to the study is the consent form or 2) the research involves procedures that normally do not require written consent outside of the research context.

Informed consent, specific: a provision in an informed consent document that requires researchers to obtain specific permission from the subject prior to using samples or data for purposes other than those that are part of the study or sharing them with other researchers.

Informed consent, tiered: provisions in an informed consent document that give the subject various options concerning the use and sharing of samples or data. Options may include blanket consent, specific consent, and other choices.

Informed consent, waiver: in human subjects research, the decision by an institutional review board to waive (or set aside) some or all of the informed consent requirements. Waivers are not usually granted unless they are necessary to conduct the research and pose minimal risks to the subjects.

Institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC): a committee responsible for reviewing and overseeing animal research conducted at an institution. IACUCs usually include members from different backgrounds and disciplines, with institutional and outside members, scientists and non-scientists.

Institutional review board (IRB): a committee responsible for reviewing and overseeing human subjects research. An IRB may also be called a research ethics committee (REC) or research ethics board (REB). IRBs usually include members from different backgrounds and disciplines, with institutional and outside members, scientists and non-scientists.

Intellectual property: legally recognized property pertaining to the products of intellectual activity, such as creative works or inventions. Forms of intellectual property include copyrights on creative works and patents on inventions.

Justice: 1. treating people fairly. 2. An ethical principle that obligates one to treat people fairly. Distributive justice refers to allocating benefits and harms fairly procedural justice refers to using fair processes to make decisions that affect people formal justice refers to treating similar cases in the same way. In human subjects research, the principle of justice implies that subjects should be selected equitably. See also Belmont Report .

Kantianism: An ethical theory developed by German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), which holds that the right thing to do is to perform one&rsquos duty for duty&rsquos sake. One&rsquos duty is defined by an ethical principle known as the categorical imperative (CI). According to one version of the CI, one should act according to a maxim that could become a rule for all people. According to another version, one should always treat people as having inherent moral value (or dignity) and never only as objects or things to be used to achieve some end.

Material transfer agreement (MTA): an agreement between institutions for the transfer and use of research materials, such as cells or reagents.

Media embargo: a policy, adopted by some journals, which allows journalists to have access to a scientific paper prior to publication, provided that they agree not to publicly disclose the contents of the paper until it is published. Some journals will refuse to publish papers that have already appeared in the media.

Mentor: someone who provides education, training, guidance, critical feedback, or emotional support to a student. In science, a mentor may be the student&rsquos advisor but need not be.

Minimal risk: a risk that is not greater than the risk of routine medical or psychological tests or exams or the risk ordinarily encountered in daily life activities.

Misconduct: See Research misconduct.

Mismanagement of funds: spending research funds wastefully or illegally for example, using grant funds allocated for equipment to pay for travel to a conference. Some types of mismanagement may also constitute fraud or embezzlement.

Morality (see Ethics).

Objectivity: 1. The tendency for the results of scientific research to be free from bias. 2. An ethical and epistemological principle instructing one to take steps to minimize or control for bias.

Observer (or Hawthorne) effect: the tendency for individuals to change their behavior when they know they are being observed. Some social science experiments use deception to control for the observer effect.

Openness: the ethical obligation to share the results of scientific research, including data and methods.

Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP): a federal agency that oversees human subjects research funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, including research funded by the National Institutes of Health. OHRP publishes guidance documents for interpreting the Common Rule, sponsors educational activities, and take steps to ensure compliance with federal regulations, including auditing research and issuing letters to institutions concerning non-compliance.

Office of Research Integrity (ORI): a U.S. federal agency that oversees the integrity of research funded by the Public Health Service, including research funded by the National Institutes of Health. ORI sponsors research and education on research integrity, and reviews reports of research misconduct inquiries and investigations from institutions.

Paternalism: restricting a person&rsquos decision-making for their own good. In soft paternalism, one restricts the choices made by someone who has a compromised ability to make decisions (see Decision-making capacity) in hard paternalism, one restricts the choices made by someone who is fully autonomous (see autonomy).

Patent: a right, granted by a government, which allows the patent holder to exclude others from making, using, or commercializing an invention for a period of time, typically 20 years. To be patented, an invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful. The patent holder must publicly disclose how to make and use the invention in the patent application.

Peer review: The process of using experts within a scientific or academic discipline (or peers) to evaluate articles submitted for publication, grant proposals, or other materials.

Peer review, double-blind: a peer review process in which neither the authors nor the reviewers are told each other&rsquos identities.

Peer review, open: a peer review process in which the authors and reviewers are told each other&rsquos identities.

Peer review, single-blind: a peer review process, used by most scientific journals, in which the reviewers are told the identities of the authors but not vice versa.

Placebo: a biologically or chemically inactive substance or intervention given to a research subject which is used to control for the Placebo effect.

Placebo effect: a person&rsquos psychosomatic response to the belief that they are receiving an effective treatment. Researchers may also be susceptible to the placebo effect if they treat subjects differently who they believe are receiving effective treatment. See also Double-Blinding.

Plagiarism: misrepresenting someone else&rsquos creative work (e.g. words, methods, pictures, ideas, or data) as one&rsquos own. See also Research misconduct.

Plagiarism, self: reusing one&rsquos own work without proper attribution or citation. Some people do not view self-plagiarism as a form of plagiarism because it does not involve intellectual theft.

Politics: 1. Activities associated with governance of a country. 2. The science or art of government. 3. The study of government.

Precautionary principle (PP): an approach to decision-making which holds that we should take reasonable measures to prevent, minimize, or mitigate harms which are plausible and serious. Some countries have used the PP to make decisions concerning environmental protection or technology development. See also Risk/benefit analysis, Risk management.

Preponderance of evidence: in the law, a standard of proof in which a claim is proven if the evidence shows that it is more likely true than false (i.e. probability > 50%). Preponderance of evidence is the legal standard generally used in research misconduct cases. This standard is much lower than the standard used in criminal cases, i.e. proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Privacy: a state of being free from unwanted intrusion into one&rsquos personal space, private information, or personal affairs. See also Confidentiality.

Proprietary research: research that a private company owns and keeps secret.

Protocol: a set of steps, methods, or procedures for performing an activity, such as a scientific experiment.

Protocol, deviation: a departure from a protocol. In human subjects research, serious or continuing deviations from approved protocols should be promptly reported to the institutional review board.

Publication: the public dissemination of information. In science, publication may occur in journals or books, in print or electronically. Abstracts presented at scientific meetings are generally considered to be a form of publication.

Publication bias: bias related to the tendency publish or not publish certain types of research. For example, some studies have documented a bias toward publishing positive results.

Quality control/quality assurance: processes for planning, conducting, monitoring, overseeing, and auditing an activity (such as research) to ensure that it meets appropriate standards of quality.

Questionable research practices (QRPs): research practices that are regarded by many as unethical but are not considered to be research misconduct. Duplicate publication and Honorary authorship are considered by many to be QRPs.

Randomization: a process for randomly assigning subjects to different treatment groups in a clinical trial or other biomedical experiment.

Randomized controlled trial (RCT): an experiment, such as a clinical trial, in which subjects are randomly assigned to receive an experimental intervention or a control.

Regulation: 1. A type of law developed and implemented by a government agency. 2. The process of regulating or controlling some activity.

Reliance agreement: an agreement between two institutions in which one institution agrees to oversee human subjects research for the other institution for a particular study or group of studies.

Remuneration: in human subjects research, providing financial compensation to subjects.

Reproducibility: the ability for an independent researcher to achieve the same results of an experiment, test, or study, under the same conditions. A research paper should include information necessary for other scientists to reproduce the results. Reproducibility is different from repeatability, in which researchers repeat their own experiments to verify the results. Reproducibility is one of the hallmarks of good science.

Research: A systematic attempt to develop new knowledge.

Research compliance: See Compliance.

Research ethics: 1. Ethical conduct in research. 2. The study of ethical conduct in research. See Responsible conduct of research.

Research integrity: following ethical standards in the conduct of research. See Research ethics.

Research institution: an institution, such as a university or government or private laboratory, which is involved in conducting research.

Research integrity official (RIO): an administrator at a research institution who is responsible for responding to reports of suspected research misconduct.

Research misconduct: intentional, knowing, or reckless behavior in research that is widely viewed as highly unethical and often illegal. Most definitions define research misconduct as fabrication or falsification of data or plagiarism, and some include other behaviors in the definition, such as interfering with a misconduct investigation, significant violations of human research regulations, or serious deviations from commonly accepted practices. Honest errors and scientific disputes are not regarded as misconduct.

Research misconduct, inquiry vs. investigation: If suspected research misconduct is reported at an institution, the Research integrity official may appoint an inquiry committee to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to conduct an investigation. If the committee determines that there is sufficient evidence, an investigative committee will be appointed to gather evidence and interview witnesses. The investigative committee will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prove misconduct and make a recommendation concerning adjudication of the case to the research integrity official.

Research record: a record related to the planning, review implementation, or dissemination of research, including, but not limited to: data, protocols, standard operating procedures, manuscripts, grant proposals, and communications with funders, journals, or approval committees.

Research sponsor: an organization, such as a government agency or private company, which funds research.

Research subject (also called research participant): a living individual who is the subject of an experiment or study involving the collection of the individual's private data or biological samples (see also human subjects research).

Respect for persons: a moral principle, with roots in Kantian philosophy, which holds that we should respect the choices of autonomous decision-makers (see Autonomy, Decision-making capacity) and that we should protect the interests of those who have diminished autonomy (see Vulnerable subject). See also Belmont Report.

Responsible conduct of research (RCR): following ethical and scientific standards and legal and institutional rules in the conduct of research. See also Research ethics, Research integrity.

Retraction: withdrawing or removing a published paper from the research record because the data or results have subsequently been found to be unreliable or because the paper involves research misconduct. Journals publish retraction notices and identify retracted papers in electronic databases to alert the scientific community to problems with the paper. See Correction.

Right: a legal or moral entitlement. Rights generally imply duties or obligations. For example, if A has a right not be killed then B has a duty not to kill A.

Risk: the product of the probability and magnitude (or severity) of a potential harm.

Risk/benefit analysis: a process for determining an acceptable level of risk, given the potential benefits of an activity or technology. See also Risk Management, Precautionary Principle.

Risk management: the process of identifying, assessing, and deciding how best to deal with the risks of an activity, policy, or technology. See also Precautionary principle.

Risk minimization: in human subjects research, the ethical and legal principle that the risks to the subjects should be minimized using appropriate methods, procedures (such as Subject selection rules), or other safety measures (such as a Data and safety monitoring board).

Risks, reasonable: in human subjects research, the ethical and legal principle that the risks to the subjects should be reasonable in relation to the benefits to the subjects or society. See Risk/benefit analysis, Social value.

Salami science: dividing a scientific project into the smallest papers that can be published (least publishable unit) in order to maximize the total publications from the project. See Questionable research practices.

Scientific (or academic) freedom: the institutional and government obligation to refrain from interfering in the conduct or publication of research, or the teaching and discussion of scientific ideas. See Censorship.

Scientific validity (or rigor): processes, procedures, and methods used to ensure that a study is well-designed to test a hypothesis or theory.

Self-deception: in science, deceiving one&rsquos self in the conduct of research. Self-deception is a form of bias that may be intentional or unintentional (subconscious).

Self-regulation: regulation of an activity by individuals involved in that activity as opposed to regulation by the government. See also Law.

Singapore Statement: an international research ethics code developed at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore in 2010.

Social responsibility: in science, the obligation to avoid harmful societal consequences from one&rsquos research and to promote good ones.

Social value: 1. the social benefits expected to be gained from a scientific study, such as new knowledge or the development of a medical treatment or other technology. 2. The ethical principle that human subjects research should be expected to yield valuable results for society.

Speciesism: the idea, defended by philosopher Peter Singer, that treating human beings as morally different from animals is a form of discrimination similar to racism. Singer argues that since all animals deserve equal moral consideration, most forms of animal experimentation are unethical. See Value, scale of.

Standard operating procedures (SOPs): rules and procedures for performing an activity, such as conducting or reviewing research.

Statistical significance: a measure of the degree that an observed result (such as relationship between two variables) is due to chance. Statistical significance is usually expressed as a p-value. A p-value of 0.05, for example, means that the observed result will probably occur as a result of chance only 5% of the time.

Subject selection: rules for including/excluding human subjects in research. Subject selection should be equitable, i.e. subjects should be included or excluded for legitimate scientific or ethical reasons. For example, a clinical trial might exclude subjects who do not have the disease under investigation or are too sick to take part in the study safely. See Risk minimization, Justice.

Surrogate decision-maker: see Legal authorized representative.

Testability: the ability to test a hypothesis or theory. Scientific hypotheses and theories should be testable.

Therapeutic misconception: 1. The tendency for human subjects research in clinical research to believe that the study is designed to benefit them personally 2. The tendency for the subjects of clinical research to overestimate the benefits of research and underestimate the risks.

Three Rs: ethical guidelines for protecting animal welfare in research, including reduction (reducing the number of animals used in research), replacement (replacing higher species with lower ones or animals with cells or computer models), and refinement (refining research methods to minimize pain and suffering).

Transparency: in science, openly disclosing information that concerned parties would want to know, such as financial interests or methodological assumptions. See also Conflict of interest, management.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study: a study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, conducted in Tuskegee, Alabama from 1932-1972, which involved observing the progression of untreated syphilis in African American men. The men were not told they were in a research study they thought they were getting treatment for &ldquobad blood.&rdquo Researchers also steered them away from clinics where could receive penicillin when it became available as a treatment for syphilis in the 1940s.

Unanticipated problem (UP): an unexpected problem that occurs in human subjects research. Serious UPs that are related to research and suggest a greater risk of harm to subjects or others should be promptly reported to institutional review boards and other authorities.

Undue influence: taking advantage of someone&rsquos vulnerability to convince them to make a decision.

Utilitarianism: An ethical theory which holds that the right thing to do is to produce the greatest balance of good/bad consequences for the greatest number of people. Act utilitarians focus on good resulting from particular actions while rule utilitarians focus on happiness resulting from following rules. Utilitarians may equate the good with happiness, satisfaction of preferences, or some other desirable outcomes. See also Consequentialism, Ethical theory.

Value: something that is worth having or desiring, such as happiness, knowledge, justice, or virtue.

Value, conflict: an ethical-dilemma involving a conflict among different values.

Value, instrumental: something that is valuable for the sake of achieving something else, e.g. a visit to the dentist is valuable for dental health.

Value, intrinsic: something that is valuable for its own sake, e.g. happiness, human life.

Value, scale of: the idea that some things can be ranked on a scale of moral value. For example, one might hold that human beings are more valuable than other sentient animals sentient animals are more valuable than non-sentient animals, etc. Some defenders of animal experimentation argue that harming animals in research can be justified to benefit human beings because human beings are more valuable than animals.

Virtue: a morally good or desirable character trait, such as honesty, courage, compassion, modesty, fairness, etc.

Virtue ethics: an ethical theory that emphasizes developing virtue as opposed to following rules or maximizing good/bad consequences.

Voluntariness: the ability to make a free (un-coerced) choice. See Coercion, Informed consent.

Vulnerable subject: a research subject who has an increased susceptibility to harm or exploitation due to his or her compromised ability to make decisions or advocate for his/her interests or his/her dependency. Vulnerability may be based on age, mental disability, institutionalization, language barriers, socioeconomic deprivation, or other factors. See Decision-making capacity, Informed consent.

Whistleblower: a person who reports suspected illegal or unethical activity, such as research misconduct or non-compliance with human subjects or animal regulations. Various laws and institutional policies protect whistleblowers from retaliation.


Revisiting the medicinal plants of the Bible and the Holy Land

The Holy Land, an area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that also includes the Eastern Bank of the Jordan, is synonymous with the biblical land of Israel and Palestine. This was an ancient botanical crossroad, enjoying an active trade in spices, incense and medicines from Egypt to Mesopotamia and beyond. Its flora includes about 2,700 species, some of medical value.

Among the early written records of plants in this region are Egyptian medical papyri. Ebers’ papyrus (1550 BC) contains 700 magical formulas and prescriptions, including the medical uses of plants. In the ruins of Assyrian Nineveh (Mesopotamia), thousands of cuneiform documents (cuneiform is a writing system invented in ancient Mesopotamia that is recognisable by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets) from earlier than 500 BC were found that mention over a thousand plant species. Many of the medical cuneiform texts (including texts only on plants) remain to be translated.

www.bible-history.com/maps/3-old-testament-world.html

In the original Hebrew version of the Bible (8th-3rd centuries BC), plant names are often unclear. Modern books showcasing assumed biblical plants draw conclusions that are frequently questionable. For example, in these books, the biblical lily is variously taken to be seven different plants, including cyclamen. Such confusion is understandable, partly because the same plant may have several names even in one country: Cyclamen persicum has at least 30 Arabic names.

The tree most mentioned in the Old Testament is the Date Palm – it occurs 34 times, mainly as a place name or a person’s given name, and only six times meaning the plant itself. Date Palm has been proposed as the Tree of Life but since neither the Tree of Life nor the Tree of Knowledge is given a specific name in the Bible, their true identities continue to be the subject of speculation.

Most of the plants in the Bible are only mentioned in passing, with reference to medicinal use occurring even less.

Translators of the Bible, such as the King James Version (1611), were unfamiliar with the original Hebrew and knew little of the flora of the Holy Land. To get around this they sometimes chose names from their local floras to make the plants seem familiar to their readers. There are similar problems of identity for plants mentioned in medical contexts in the Talmud (text of Rabbinic Judaism, with versions dating from the 3rd to 8th centuries BC).

“Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.” Isaiah 38:21.

Most of the plants in the Bible are only mentioned in passing, with reference to medicinal use occurring even less. Examples of biblical medical application are the use of ‘balm’ to treat sores (Jeremiah), Fig as a cure for a boil (Isaiah), and Mandrake as a fertility remedy enabling Jacob and Leah to have a fifth son (Genesis). Mandrake had around 88 different medicinal uses in the ancient world some of which continue to this day.

Researchers need to be aware that plant names can change over time with some being discarded or forgotten. Plants used in medicine and witchcraft often have many local names (such as Mandrake). Also, the same plant may have several names and the same name can refer to more than one species (such as Artemisia) or genera (such as Cupressus/Juniperus).

Untangling the botanical identities of plants of the Bible
One way of assessing the possible validity of potential biblical medicinal plants is if they are also recorded as medicinal plants in other sources. Plants and their products (such as spices and incense) that had medicinal uses in Egypt and Mesopotamia were probably also known in the Holy Land in biblical times, even if they are not mentioned in the Bible. Likewise, plants mentioned in the Talmud as medicinal that are also documented in Egypt and Mesopotamia and for which archaeological evidence exists are reasonable candidates.

The post-biblical Mishna (written collection of the Jewish oral traditions) and the Babylonian Talmud include about 400 plant names, 43 of which are mentioned in relation to medicine. The pharmacopoeias of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, found in cuneiform and hieroglyphic texts, include more than 200 plants, the identification of which requires further etymological research.

“When Jacob came out from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.” Genesis 30:16-17. Viktor Loki/Shutterstock.com

However, many modern compilations carry inaccuracies. J. A. Duke in “Medicinal Plants of the Bible” (1983, cited in Dafni & Boeck) lists 176 plant species as biblical medicinal plants, but many of them are not related to the flora in the region and were never grown or traded in the ancient Middle East. W. Jacob in “The Healing Past: Pharmaceuticals in the Biblical and Rabbinic World” (1993, cited in Dafni & Boeck) suggested 55 plants (most on a species level but some as genus).

Linguistics and philology help in the study of biblical plant names. Modern developments, especially with Hebrew and Akkadian materials, have exposed mistranslations and mistakes in botanical identification of some assumed biblical plants. Recent palynological (study of ancient pollen grains dust or particles) as well as archaeological data have corroborated the possible biblical medicinal uses of some plants. For example, there is archaeological evidence for the use of medicinal Cinnamon, Myrrh Gum (Commiphora sp.) and Myrtle in the Holy Land in biblical times and earlier.

Examples are ‘balm’ to treat sores, Fig as a cure for a boil and Mandrake as a fertility remedy.

Meanwhile, although some have suggested that Papaver somniferum L. (Opium Poppy) was used medicinally in Egypt, it is debatable whether the plant was known at all in the Holy Land in biblical times. Other medicinal plant species are known only from ancient Egypt and, at the moment, there is insufficient evidence to consider them biblical medicinal plants: these include Ocimum basilicum (Basil) and Cannabis sativa L. (Marijuana). Providing ethnobotanical evidence, Samaritans (a group originating from the Israelites) still use Origanum syriacum (Syrian Oregano) in the same way as in biblical times.

Assessing the botanical reliability of biblical plant names
In “Plants of the Bible” (2012, in Hebrew, cited in Dafni & Boeck), Z. Amar revisited the flora in the Old Testament to determine the reliability of previously suggested plant names. Using Jewish post-biblical sources, Amar grouped names according to botanical identification reliability. He arrived at around 75 plant names with certain to reasonable identification validity. But among previously proposed plants, he found 13 plant names to be unidentifiable or unreliable, 20 non-specific names like ‘thorn’ or ‘lily’, and 35 names that were probably not related to plants at all.

Dafni and Boeck re-examined the list of possible medicinal plants in the Bible.

Now, Dafni and Boeck have done a similar review of potential biblical medicinal plants on the basis of recent studies in Hebrew biblical language, Egyptian and Mesopotamian medicinal use of plants and ethnobotany, and botanical archaeological remains of medicinal plants found in Israel. As a result, they propose a revised list of 45 medicinal plant species of which 20 have not previously been included.

Using Amar’s guidelines for identification reliability, Dafni and Boeck discarded plant names based on mistranslations and plants that were not indigenous to the Holy Land or were never introduced. They compiled an inventory of plants for which there is literary evidence (including comparative data from ancient sources) and/or archaeological evidence of medicinal use. Some plants from the Talmud were eliminated on the basis of new linguistic interpretations.

Dafni and Boeck divided their likely plants into: plants mentioned explicitly as medicinal in the Bible which had high identification reliability (based on Z. Amar’s work) (5 species) plants mentioned in the Bible and known as medicinal in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (27 species) and plants not cited in the Bible but mentioned as medicinal in post-biblical sources and/or Egypt and/or Mesopotamia (13 species).

Only five species are mentioned explicitly as medicinal plants in the Bible: Fig (Ficus carica), Nard (Nardostachys jatamansi), Hyssop (Origanum syriacum), ‘Balm of Gilead’ (Commiphora sp.), and Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum). Plants mentioned in the Bible and known as medicinal in Egypt and Mesopotamia include: Myrtle (Myrtus commnis), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera), Pomegranate (Punica granatum), Garlic (Allium sativa), Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) and Cedar (Cedrus libani).

Pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible and known as medicinal in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Plants not cited in the Bible but mentioned as medicinal in post-biblical sources and/or Egypt and/or Mesopotamia include: Safflower (Carthamus tinctoria), Henna (Lawsonia inermis), Aloe (Aloe sp.), Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida) and Water Cress (Lepidium sativum). Other possible inclusions are Lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus Egypt, Mishna, archaeology), Fennel (Ferula sp. Egypt-Mesopotamia), Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum Egypt-Mesopotamia) and Carob (Ceratonia siliqua Egypt).

The proposed biblical medicinal plants (45 in total) are all known as such in the ancient civilizations of the region. All have been in continuous medicinal use in the Middle East down the generations and are used in the Holy Land today. Most have at least one additional use as food, in rituals, for perfume and cosmetics, and as incense. Some could now be studied further to determine their chemical composition and medical activity with a view to isolating compounds for possible drug development.

Personal Response

What is an interesting aspect of the direction that your joint work is now taking?

Especially interesting of our joint work is the exchange of information between such different areas of research such as Biology and ancient Philology. It is an enormous challenge to prepare the specialist information from each field in order to make it available to the other field and to engage then into a discussion of identification and use. We have just learned the “language” of communication and are now “conversing”.

How might the stigma attached to magic and exorcism (God as a singular healer) have meant that plants as medicines are not more explicitly mentioned in the Bible?

We should not forget that the Bible is not a book on medicine but a collection of writings on the religious experience of ancient Israel including historical accounts, parables, hymns and didactic writings. The reason that many plants are not mentioned as medicines should not be sought in the belief that God has singular healing power but rather that the authors of the different books of the Bible were not specialist healers or physicians and focused rather on the intellectual challenge of God’s word.


New Research Suggests Dr. Seuss Modeled the Lorax on This Real-Life Monkey

Millions of Americans grew up with Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, the gruff orange ball of fluff who doggedly guarded his forest of Truffula trees against the greedy Once-ler. Today, in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists unveil a surprising possible inspiration for the stern Seuss stalwart: a mustachioed monkey native to the plains of Central Africa, where the author once vacationed.

The adventure began in September of 1970 at a celebrity jet setter’s retreat in a lavish Kenyan country club. Owned by actor William Holden, the Mount Kenya Safari Club frequently played host to Hollywood A-listers luxuriating in exclusive cocktail hours and spontaneous safaris. Among them was none other than Theodor Geisel—better known to most as the American author Dr. Seuss.

It was at the Safari Club where, on a late summer afternoon, Seuss composed most of the manuscript that would become The Lorax. The illustrated children’s book, which first hit bookshelves in 1971, is among Seuss’ most famous works and perhaps his most controversial, evoking ire with ecopolitical messaging wrapped in the guise of whimsical rhymes and Seussian charisma.

The fable pits capitalism against biodiversity. It’s a sobering tale of the avaricious Once-ler, who, seduced by wealth, fells yarn-producing Truffula trees to knit lucrative Thneeds. As the forests and wildlife crumble and disappear, the Lorax, who “speaks for the trees,” pleads for the preservation of his ecosystem.

Ultimately, the Lorax’s admonitions fall on deaf ears, and the book ends with Truffulas, and the ecosystem they once supported, on the brink of extinction. But hope glimmers faintly in the book’s final passages: the young narrator takes possession of the last remaining Truffula seed from the now-remorseful Once-ler, who closes with a mournful exhortation:

Unless someone like you

Cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

Published just as global environmental awareness was beginning to unfurl its wings in the early 1970s, The Lorax is still pointed to as a foundational ecopolitical text. “It really set the tone for how environmental messages should be done,” says lead author Nathaniel Dominy, a professor of anthropology and primate biology at Dartmouth University.

A postcard depicting the Mount Kenya Safari Club circa 1970, when Seuss visited with his wife Audrey. (Sapra Studios, Nairobi)

Today, the legacy of the The Lorax lives on, brought into sharply renewed perspective by the growing consequences of human intervention on global biodiversity. But the Lorax himself—in spite of, or perhaps because of, his moral high ground—is not without his critics. Introduced by Seuss as “ sharpish and bossy, ” the Lorax has even been characterized as an off-putting pedant for his dogmatic demeanor and possessive protests of the damage done to “his” Truffula habitat. For some, the Lorax comes across, according to Dominy, as a “self-appointed eco-policeman”—perhaps no better than the greedy Once-ler he chastises.

This didn’t fit Dominy’s portrait of Seuss or his work. And so, he foraged for another connection: perhaps the origins of the story had some basis in fact. In the past, Dominy had joked to colleagues about how, if Seuss were to create a primate, “ it would turn out something like the patas monkey . ” Little did Dominy know at the time, Seuss and his wife had traveled smack into the middle of patas monkey country.

Only months before his fateful trip to Kenya, Seuss had joined a campaign to save the eucalyptus trees being culled from the neighborhood surrounding his home in La Jolla, California. According to study co-author Donald Pease, a professor of American literature and well-known Seuss biographer at Dartmouth, conservation was already at the forefront of Seuss’ mind—but he had been struggling to come up with a story that would resonate with children.

“He felt all of his previous efforts to write a work that would support the so-called environmental protection movement would sound preachy,” Pease explains. “It wasn’t until [his wife] Audrey suggested they go on vacation to Kenya that the story came to him.”

To Dominy’s delight, timing wasn’t the only evidence that supported his theory. With its dark mouth, hooded eyes, and wispy Confucian whiskers, the patas monkey sports an almost comically crotchety countenance not unlike that of the Lorax. Even the “sawdusty sneeze” of the Lorax might have been a quirky reinterpretation of the patas monkey’s wheezy whoop.

There was more. Patas monkeys, it turns out, rely heavily on a certain species of spiked, spindly African tree called the whistling thorn acacia. Only where these trees thrive will patas monkeys be found. The tree’s gum, thorns, flowers and seeds are believed to make up around 80 percent of the monkey’s diet.

“It’s a tree Dr. Seuss could not have missed when he was wandering through the Safari Club,” says Pease. Though patas monkeys are terrestrial, spending much of their time clambering through the reedy savannah grasses, they never stray far from their acacias.

But corroboration of the patas monkey connection is difficult. Seuss died in 1991. And Audrey Geisel, his widow, had an understandably foggy recollection of the vacation the couple had embarked on nearly half a century ago. To complicate matters further, no photos from the fateful trip survived.

The whistling thorn acacia provides the patas monkey with 80 percent of its diet about half of this is gum. (Yvonne de Jong and Thomas Butynski)

Even Pease was skeptical of Dominy’s theory at first: “Seuss took great pride in the inventiveness he associated with the creation of the figures he put in his books,” he explains.

Dominy decided to do some computational sleuthing. He enlisted the help of a former collaborator, senior author James Higham, another primate biologist who frequently utilized computer programming in his research at New York University. Together with study co-author Sandra Winters, a PhD student in Higham’s research group, Dominy and Higham devised a clever protocol to test the relationship between fact and fiction.

Using facial recognition software, they constructed a monkey “face space”: a multidimensional map of faces of primates common to Kenya. Each face represented the average features of a particular species of monkey, with the distance between faces representing the extent of facial similarity. Higham had previously employed this method to uncover new information about the rapid evolution of guenons, the genus of Central African primates that includes patas monkeys.

When Winters and Higham plotted a composite of the Lorax into their monkey face space, he fell in neatly with real monkeys. Even when the researchers included another Seuss character from the earlier The Foot Book, the Lorax resembled a blue monkey or patas monkey more than his Seussian relative. Dominy is fairly certain that Seuss never came into contact with blue monkeys, which inhabit a different sector of the African landscape, during his travels. But patas monkeys and their acacias flourish on the dry plains of the Laikipia plateau in Kenya.

Face spaces are not used as frequently for most of modern facial recognition software, which now focuses primarily on identifying individuals (think of automatic tagging on Facebook) rather than categorizing species. However, according to Alice O’Toole, a professor who studies facial recognition at the University of Texas at Dallas and was not affiliated with the study, it remains a powerful method for this type of work. “I thought it was a clever and innovative use of these older methods,” O’Toole says.

“I always thought the Lorax looked like a guenon, with their little mustaches,” adds Meredith Bastian, curator of primates at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, who also did not contribute to the study. “It makes a lot of sense to me.”

Whether or not the patas monkey and its acacia tree were what truly cajoled Seuss out of his writer’s block, the mere possibility suggests a more altruistic interpretation of the story. The Lorax’s protectiveness of his Truffula trees—which, like the whistling thorn acacias for patas monkeys, make the difference between life and death. The Lorax may not view his relationship with the forest as proprietary after all rather, he “speaks for the trees” simply because they cannot speak for themselves. The Lorax and the Truffula trees are, in a sense, one and the same, a single codependent entity on the brink of extinction. “Viewed that way, his self-righteous indignation is more forgivable and understandable,” says Dominy.

“This is the deep message of the Lorax: He is a part of the ecological system, not apart from it,” adds Pease. He explains that this resonates deeply for the human place in the natural world as well: "It undermines the assumption of human exceptionalism—that humans are sequestered from the rest of the natural world in order to benefit from it. If human beings persist in this attitude, the human species itself will be threatened with extinction. It’s only when we acknowledge the fact that we’re part of the environment that we can begin to discover what needs to change.”

With its dark mouth, hooded eyes, and wispy Confucian whiskers, the patas monkey sports an almost comically crotchety countenance, not unlike that of the Lorax. (Yvonne de Jong and Thomas Butynski, Ben Molyneux / Alamy)

“[The study] is a very thorough look at the origin of the Lorax,” says Philip Nel , a professor of children’s literature at Kansas State University, who did not participate in the research. “It provides a much fuller context than has been provided before in any one place.”

Dominy and Pease emphasize that they aren’t championing any sort of revisionist history: they are enriching—not displacing—a familiar discussion. And leveraging the legacy of Lorax lore can be incredibly powerful: what Nel calls a “cultural shorthand” for the environment.

In 2012, the Philadelphia Zoo debuted the Trail of the Lorax, featuring an urgent message to patrons to engage with orangutan conservation. Due to poaching, habitat fragmentation and the encroachment of palm oil plantations, orangutan populations have plummeted in recent decades, leaving all species critically endangered. Noting the parallels between The Lorax and the plight of these apes, the Zoo linked the cultural icon to the real-world stakes of saving lives. Their interactive exhibition encouraged visitors to support companies committed to using sustainable palm oil and spread awareness of continued conservation efforts.

“It’s hard when the animal is halfway around the world. It’s not something people feel they have any control over here in the U.S.,” says Kimberly Lengel, vice president of conservation and education at the Philadelphia Zoo. “[With the Lorax], we made that connection for them and showed people they can have an impact.”

As of yet, patas monkeys are not in similarly dire straits: Their numbers remain relatively high across the plains of Central Africa. However, recent climate change-driven increases in temperature and aridity in Kenya has increased the browsing of elephants, rhinoceroses and giraffes on whistling thorn acacia. Additionally, these trees have been increasingly harvested for their ability to produce high-quality charcoal for nearby human populations. Both these human-driven changes have begun to deplete the patas monkeys’ most important resource.

According to Lynne Isbell, a primate biologist at the University of California at Davis who was not affiliated with the study, the continued loss of the whistling thorn acacia from Laikipia, where Seuss may have first imagined his Lorax, would destroy the “last stronghold” for patas monkeys in Kenya. “It would be an absolute disaster for them,” Isbell says. If these trends continue, patas monkeys could someday be headed for the same fate as the Lorax—and if and when this occurs, who came first will be a moot point.

Of course, Seuss was no oracle. It’s unlikely he was deliberately forecasting the demise of the patas monkey, orangutan or any other specific creature. Inspired by a monkey or not, the Lorax is, ultimately, not real. But his message very much is. For Seuss, it could simply have been that, with the humbling landscape of the African savannah before him, the words finally began to flow.

Maybe, at the end of the day, it hardly matters how much of The Lorax was prophetic fact or fiction. What matters is that an orthodox interpretation has been reinvigorated with a fresh perspective—and, as a result, the conversation on conservation can been reawakened. The Lorax’s potential connection to the patas monkey breathes new life into a work nearing its 50th anniversary as a cornerstone of the ongoing debate on ecopolitics, buoying the hope that, with modern technology and increased awareness, the world’s remaining ecological gems stand a fighting chance.

For a new generation of readers, and the many more still to come, the message of The Lorax lives on—a sign that someone out there still cares “a whole awful lot.” And maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that things are “going to get better.” Seuss himself couldn’t have asked for more.


Were Neanderthals More Than Cousins to Homo Sapiens?

These members of the genus Homo have long occupied two different branches on the family tree. But now that researchers think these groups interbred, scholars are giving serious consideration to whether we are the same species after all.

P lease note that this article includes images of human remains.

A round 200,000 years ago, in what is now northern Israel, a small band of tech-savvy humans dragged home and dismembered a bounty of wildlife. Using exquisitely pointed flint spearheads and blades, they hunted and butchered myriad prey, including gazelles, deer, and now-extinct aurochs, the ancestors of modern cattle.

I n the cool, humid climate of the coastal plain, these early Homo sapiens foraged for acorns in nearby forests of oak, olive, and pistachio. They ate the saline leaves of shrubby saltbush and lugged ostrich eggs back to the cave, where they slurped down the yolks.

T his vision of the past comes from Haifa University archaeologist Mina Weinstein-Evron. In 2002, she and her colleagues discovered the upper jaw and teeth of a H. sapiens that dated to between 177,000 and 194,000 years old in Israel’s Misliya Cave, with animal bones and sharp tools nearby.

I t’s probable, Weinstein-Evron explains, that these humans migrated to the Arabian Peninsula more than 200,000 years ago, trekking along lush corridors out of Africa. “We don’t know how many crossed, and how many of them perished, and how many went back. We only know that these people arrived,” she says.

W e also know that they were likely not alone. Based on small finds of teeth and bones from local caves, “we know that the area was inhabited by Neanderthal-like creatures,” or the predecessors of Neanderthals, at that time, says Tel Aviv University anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, an expert on modern human origins.

W hile out foraging, H. sapiens may have mated with these Neanderthal-like inhabitants. In this land that later birthed the Bible, they likely knew each other in the Biblical sense.

The Misliya Cave in northern Israel may have seen early human habitation some 200,000 years ago. Reuveny/Wikimedia Commons

T he humans* who lived in the Misliya Cave were part of a population that, many scholars suspect, ultimately died out. Later waves of H. sapiens that left the African continent succeeded in reproducing and spreading out. But braided into the story of those human migrations is that of Neanderthals, hominins—members of our family tree closest to modern humans—who may have first evolved in Europe from African ancestors some 400,000 years ago.

M any scientists now suspect that H. sapiens and Neanderthals met and mingled their genes multiple times. Geneticists have documented how Neanderthal genes survive today among modern humans, evidence of some earlier instances of interbreeding.

New studies, made possible in part by computational techniques that enable researchers to analyze huge quantities of genetic data, show that H. sapiens and Neanderthals interbred far more than previously imagined. Indeed, their proclivity for pairing off has led many researchers to question the old dictum that Neanderthals and H. sapiens were separate species.

S uch ideas raise questions as to what it really means to be a distinct “species.” They also raise the possibility that perhaps H. sapiens did not outcompete Neanderthals into extinction, as some scientists have suggested. Rather, one species may have simply absorbed the other—and so, Neanderthals, in a sense, could survive in us.

(RE)THINK HUMAN

G et our newest stories delivered to your inbox every Friday.

I n 1856, in the Neander Valley of Prussia (now Germany), limestone cutters discovered the partial skeleton of a thick-boned, brow-ridged hominin in a cave. A German anthropologist named Hermann Schaaffhausen examined the bones.

S chaaffhausen realized that the skull differed from that of modern humans but concluded it could nonetheless belong to what he called a “barbarous and savage race” of human. However, his contemporary, Irish geologist William King, disagreed.

This fragment, found in what is today Germany, comes from the skull of a Neanderthal. DEA Picture Library/Getty Images

K ing noted that the skull of this fossil, with its “strong simial [apelike] tendencies” was “generically distinct from Man.” In 1863, King declared it a new species, which he named Homo neanderthalensis.

S cientists have been arguing over whether H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis are truly separate species ever since. By appearances alone, Neanderthal fossils resemble ours—they are clearly members of our hominin family tree. But on closer examination, Neanderthal features are also quite distinct.

“ There was debate back and forth: Was this just a weird variant of us—a more primitive, brutish-looking thing than living humans—or was it really something different?” asks physical anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh.

S chwartz can rattle off a raft of anatomical differences between H. sapiens and Neanderthals: H. sapiens are flat-faced the Neanderthal face sticks out. Neanderthals had boxy, stout bodies, and their major arm and leg bones were thick. H. sapiens, by contrast, have thinner, gracile bodies. Neanderthals had different teeth and thumb lengths, as well as longer collarbones.

T he argument might have been confined to questions of anatomy had it not been for a singular discovery in 2010. A team led by evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, extracted bits of DNA from Neanderthal fossils and published an early version of the Neanderthal genome.

B y comparing portions of the Neanderthal genome with the genomes of five modern-day humans—from Southern Africa, West Africa, Papua New Guinea, China, and France—they found that Neanderthals share more genetic snippets with humans in Europe and Asia today than with people living presently in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

P ääbo and his team’s findings showed that between 1 and 4 percent of the genomes of modern non-African humans consist of Neanderthal DNA. That overlap suggested, for the first time, that our H. sapiens ancestors could have had intimate encounters with Neanderthals.

This 450,000-year-old jaw from Tautavel, France, held by a paleontologist, came from an archaic human. Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

T hat study would be the first of many to indicate that these two hominins interbred. And such studies matter to the question of whether Neanderthals and H. sapiens are one or two species because, by biologist Ernst Mayr’s “classic definition,” Hershkovitz explains, “if two organisms can breed and produce fertile offspring, it means that they belong to the same species.”

G enetic research has long faced a challenge in scale. There are an estimated 21,000 genes in the human genome that code for proteins, complex molecules that do most of the work in cells and play crucial roles in the body. Sequencing these genes involved studying the 3 billion DNA base pairs that make up the human genome.

E very advance that makes studying an individual genome cheaper, more accurate, and faster is a major step forward in understanding how individuals—whether H. sapiens, Neanderthal, or other—compare. For all of those reasons, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, which enable researchers to set computers to solving problems and conducting analyses, has been a game changer.

A I has not only helped to confirm earlier genetic findings that H. sapiens and Neanderthals interbred, but also suggested their sexual encounters occurred to a degree that scholars never anticipated. All of this builds the case that the two could be the same species.

I n 2018, for example, research published by population geneticists Fernando Villanea and Joshua Schraiber, then at Temple University in Philadelphia, made use of an AI tool called a deep learning algorithm, which seeks patterns in complex layers of data and is inspired by the brain’s approach to acquiring knowledge.

C omputer scientists “train” algorithms by instructing them to identify specific patterns based on previously assembled data. In this case, Villanea and Schraiber used an algorithm to spot Neanderthal ancestry.

T he pair then analyzed the distribution of Neanderthal DNA in the genomes of about 400 contemporary East Asians and Europeans, people whose ancestors have lived in these regions for a long time. This data came from the 1000 Genomes Project, an international collaboration to catalogue human genetic variation.

By the “classic definition,” explains anthropologist Hershkovitz, “if two organisms can breed and produce fertile offspring, it means that they belong to the same species.”

S chraiber and Villanea found fragments of Neanderthal ancestry: about 1.5 percent in each individual and 1.7 percent among people in East Asia specifically. Fabrizio Mafessoni, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, reviewed Schraiber and Villanea’s findings and argued that the proportion of Neanderthal fragments among modern humans was a bit higher than would be expected if there had only been one episode in which these two populations mated.

“ The intuitive explanation,” Schraiber says, “is that there were multiple episodes of interbreeding and that [populations in East Asia] interbred more.”

A 2019 study, co-led by Oscar Lao, who studies population genomics at Spain’s National Center of Genomic Regulation, and Jaume Bertranpetit, an evolutionary biologist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, used deep learning algorithms to identify a hitherto-unknown human population, a hybrid of Neanderthals and Denisovans. (The Denisovans are archaic hominins identified from the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.)

T heir data showed that—given the distribution of Neanderthal DNA in various living human groups—Neanderthals interbred with Denisovans in East Asia, creating the Neanderthal-Denisovan population, and their hybrid descendants did the deed with modern humans before their arrival in Australia some 60,000 years ago.

T hat evidence for “admixing” between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans, Bertranpetit says, indicates “that all of these populations belong to a single lineage.”

S till other research, published in 2017, indicates that gene flow from early H. sapiens into Neanderthals might have occurred earlier in humanity’s story—around the time that the Misliya Cave H. sapiens were sucking the yolks of those ostrich eggs.

T hat study, led by Cosimo Posth, an archaeogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, examined DNA collected from an approximately 120,000-year-old femur bone excavated in a cave in southwestern Germany.

A researcher examines a Neanderthal fossil with protection on so as not to contaminate the sample’s DNA. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology via Wikimedia Commons

S pecifically, they turned to mitochondrial DNA, genetic information handed down from mother to child and found within the cells’ energy-generating structures called mitochondria. The analysis concluded that the ancestors of Neanderthals and H. sapiens interbred at some point between 270,000 and 220,000 years ago, most likely in the Levant.

T aken together, these studies strengthen the case that H. sapiens-Neanderthal pairings occurred and that such mating was by no means unusual. Rather, H. sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and their hybrids all interbred (hinting, yes, that all three were the same species). And that mixing may have occurred as early as some of the first forays of modern human ancestors out of Africa.

“ For hundreds of thousands of years, modern humans as well as archaic humans, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, have been … crossing modern-day borders that, of course, were not existing in the past and multiple times admixing and exchanging genetic material,” Posth says. “This was not the exception but was the norm.”

I f “species” is defined in large part by the ability to breed and have young who can also reproduce, one might argue that Neanderthals and H. sapiens are indeed one species. And many of the scientists who work on these studies agree. Yet some experts still contend otherwise.

A pproximately 75 kilometers south of the Misliya Cave, Hershkovitz is sitting in his tiny office in Tel Aviv. Around him, the skulls of H. sapiens—the oldest dating back 15,000 years—jostle with one another on shelves lining the walls.

T hese skulls, which belonged to living, breathing human beings, evoke an aura of a long-forgotten world. And once, earlier still, such humans coexisted with other hominin species. Yet determining how different these species were from each other is difficult. Hershkovitz, for example, sees H. sapiens and Neanderthals as “sister populations” within the same species.

Anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz stands by a cast of human remains in his office. Josie Glausiusz

B ut Mayr’s “classic definition” of a species, based on interbreeding, is riddled with exceptions. For instance, if members of two different species happen to reproduce, they can have offspring but that new generation of “hybrids” may not be able to reproduce.

A horse and a donkey’s offspring, the mule, is typically sterile, for example. But lions and tigers, separate species that in the wild live on different continents, can sire “ligers” or “tigons” in captivity, and those hybrid felines can rarely or occasionally reproduce. In other words, scientists recognize instances where two species remain separate despite interbreeding—and some researchers extend that exception to H. sapiens and Neanderthals.

N ew York University biological anthropologist Shara Bailey believes H. sapiens and Neanderthals reproduced but remained distinct species—just like lions and tigers. She describes the two hominins as morphologically separate species who diverged from each other at least 800,000 years ago.

“ For all intents and purposes, they were separate species,” Bailey says, “but they maintained the ability to hybridize.” Their offspring, she argues, would have been rare and, though able to reproduce, less successful in reproducing compared with their parents. The genetic record, then, indicates that some hybrids did sometimes succeed, contributing Neanderthal DNA to the modern human gene pool.

B ailey’s not alone in this viewpoint. Anthropologist Chris Stringer, at the Natural History Museum in London, also concludes that these populations both were separated long enough in terms of their evolution and were physically distinct enough in their features to remain separate species that occasionally hybridized.

G iven the complications in Mayr’s definition, some scholars argue it ought to be replaced. To that end, there are now 20 different conceptions of what a “species” could be—and no strong consensus on which should take center stage. Some scientists subscribe to the theory of species mate recognition, in which members of the same species “recognize” one another as mates through courtship rituals, breeding seasons, or protein compatibility.

Untold Homo species contributed to the eventual emergence of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Fiorella Ikeue/SAPIENS

A nd at least one researcher still questions the genetic evidence for interbreeding. Schwartz says he has seen and studied almost every specimen of the entire human fossil record and notes that “Neanderthals are clearly a different species from us: They are so morphologically unique.”

S chwartz doubts the interpretation of genetic evidence thus far. Although dozens of hominins once existed, Schwartz points out, scientists have only sequenced the genomes of three specimens whose species they could clearly identify by their morphology: modern H. sapiens, the Neander Valley Neanderthal, and a 400,000-year-old hominin called Homo heidelbergensis. (Researchers have endeavored to identify the species of other, fragmentary specimens, primarily using genetic clues derived from the definitively identified Neanderthal and H. sapiens fossils.)

B ecause we don’t know how many hominin species there were—and because the vast majority have not had their DNA sequenced—we can’t know how many of these hominins had genes that were specifically “Denisovan” or “Neanderthal,” Schwartz argues. Therefore, he says, there is no way of knowing whether the DNA sequences extracted from Neanderthals were exclusive to Neanderthals.

“ Pääbo and his group are very good technicians,” Schwartz says. “I don’t doubt that they have really worked hard to make sure these sequences are not contaminated.” Still, he says, we lack the DNA of many other hominins. The evidence that the sequenced DNA is specific to Neanderthals is therefore unreliable, he argues, and so claims that they interbred with H. sapiens are also dubious.

“ I’m not saying that the comparisons are incorrect or that the sequences are incorrect,” Schwartz says. “I’m saying that the conclusion is not that solid.”

S chwartz doubts that Neanderthals and H. sapiens would have recognized each other as mates: “Neanderthals don’t look like us we don’t look like them they wouldn’t move the same way we did,” he says. Also, “they probably smelled different than we do.”

F or the moment, then, the answer to whether or not H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis were the same species is still up for debate (along with the entire messy concept of “species”). But the larger message that comes through with each wave of findings is simple: Despite a long history of derogatory “cave man” descriptors, H. neanderthalensis was probably a lot like us.

T he first time H. sapiens and Neanderthals met was likely in the region that is now Israel. Just as the Misliya Cave helps establish how long anatomically modern humans were present in the region, tools associated with Neanderthals, such as spearheads and knives, have been found in other caves in Israel.

B ut many mysteries remain. Did H. sapiens and Neanderthals whisper sweet nothings to each other beneath the leaves of a pistachio tree? Was there some secret lure, facial or pheromonal, that attracted one to the other? We can only speculate.

Archaeologists fit together chipped stone pieces that may have been tools crafted by Neanderthals at a Stone Age site in northern Israel. Netta Mitki /PLOS ONE

N eanderthals were intelligent they were skilled toolmakers. We don’t know whether they had spoken language, because even though they had vocal anatomy similar to H. sapiens, the soft tissue associated with the vocal box—the area of the throat containing the vocal cords—has not been preserved.

B oth H. sapiens and Neanderthals shared a propensity for primping. Neanderthals made jewelry out of animal teeth, shells, and ivory. They decorated themselves with feathers and probably ochre as well.

S ome scholars suspect that fierce competition between H. sapiens and Neanderthals pushed the latter from the warmer Levant into an ice-covered Europe. “The world was almost empty,” Hershkovitz says. “The way I personally see this—probably most people would not agree with me—the European Neanderthals had no other choice.”

T hough Hershkovitz declines to conjecture as to whether female Neanderthals were forced into sex—rape has been used as a weapon of war through the ages to punish and terrorize—he does offer, “I don’t think it was a happy marriage.”

O thers, including Schraiber, posit more peaceful encounters. “I imagine that when humans ran into some vaguely human-like thing, they were like, ‘This is cool,’” he speculates. But, he demurs, “I really don’t know, Did they whisper sweet nothings beneath the leaves of a pistachio tree? We can only speculate. especially since I’m not an anthropologist, I’m a geneticist.”

A t least one researcher, computational biologist Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, goes further. He hypothesizes that Neanderthals never went extinct: They, or their genes, were simply absorbed into modern humans. In other words, instead of dying out through violence or starvation, the Neanderthal population hybridized with H. sapiens.

U sing mathematical models, Nielsen and his colleague Kelley Harris have argued that at one point, the proportion of Neanderthal DNA in humans alive today was as high as 10 percent—and that proportion later dwindled. That 10 percent figure is significant because other researchers have estimated H. sapiens outnumbered Neanderthals 10-to-1, so perhaps, Nielsen contends, the two species interbred to such an extent that they merged together.

O ver time, however, modern humans lost significant amounts of Neanderthal DNA, perhaps because it carried harmful mutations. Indeed, another research team, which included Pääbo, found that most Neanderthal genes survive in H. sapiens in regions of non-coding DNA. “The regions that are most important for function—the protein-coding genes—are depleted of Neanderthal DNA,” Nielsen says.

In a Q&A for the journal BMC Biology, Nielsen and Harris write: “It is possible that Neanderthals did not truly die off at all but simply melted together with the human species. One could perhaps argue that Neanderthals did not disappear due to warfare or competition—but due to love.”

I f they are right, then whether we were once one species or two does not matter because we are all one now.

*Editors’ note: Many anthropologists use the term “human” to not only mean modern Homo sapiens but also many other hominin species on our family tree. (In other words, for some scholars, Neanderthals have always been “human,” as members of the genus Homo.) In our story, we use “human” broadly while using “H. sapiens” to refer to the only living species of the Homo lineage and “modern humans” to point to “all humans living today.”


Toward a multifaceted international response

In our view, there is a compelling case to consider a change in approach to combat poaching of high-value wildlife that should reflect the real drivers of illegal trade by acknowledging market conditions, consumer preferences for wildlife products, species’ biology and ecology, and the socioeconomic needs of communities at the local and national level. In this section, we outline possible short-, medium- and longer-term strategies that would favor proconservation outcomes over poaching.

In the short-term local communities living in the vicinity of high-value species offer the best chance of conserving them (e.g., Roe 2011 MacMillan & Nguyen 2013 ). Despite the threat of legal sanctions, the poaching and sale of wildlife remains an attractive option to local people who seek greater disposable income, may have a long cultural association with hunting but who may also be intimidated into poaching by organized criminal gangs (TRAFFIC 2008 MacMillan & Nguyen 2013 ). In order to encourage local communities to conserve rather than kill valued species, we need to provide incentives that help them meet their livelihood expectations (Aziz et al. 2013 Harihar et al. 2014 ). These incentives could take many forms, including but not limited to, greater disposable income, retraining, local empowerment, secure tenure over land and resources, better access to health and educational services and payments for conservation services. These demands could be met by the state as well as nonstate actors based on performance in managing or protecting species, even protecting wildlife in a fort-holding approach where appropriate, and which could be validated by periodic population surveys (MacMillan & Leader-Williams 2008 Zabel & Holm-Muller 2008 Dinerstein et al. 2012 Duckworth et al. 2012 Harihar et al. 2014 ). Critically, in developing these community conservation packages, we must look beyond compensation payments based on opportunity costs, which may not always incentivize conservation (Harihar et al. 2014 ), and look to create prosperity locally from managing the conservation of high-value wildlife, such is the case in the Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania. Compensation in return for losses associated with living with endangered species has become an established practice (e.g., livestock predation), yet even when payments are paid in full and in a timely manner, it begs the question why do we restrict payments to relatively small sums as compensation for losses, or opportunity costs, such as labor? Instead, why not pay local communities much more in order to reflect the value of the service they would provide by protecting species that are highly valued globally? Willing-to-pay studies have shown that the conservation or “existence” value of wildlife is considerably higher than its value as a commodity, the opportunity costs of coexistence, or as an extinct species (MacMillan et al. 1996 MacMillan et al. 2004 Ninan 2007 ). We therefore assert that mechanisms to more generously reward local communities for partnership in conservation should be established. Such approaches would likely be affordable, efficient, and once introduced would undermine the economic incentive for poaching locally, while enforcing resource and land rights would offer security against poachers coming in from outside.

Incentives need not be restricted to economic benefits either as they do not have inherent universal appeal especially where the targets of the policy are those with relative wealth or already endowed with hunting rights (e.g., MacMillan & Philip 2010 ). However, understanding and working with local cultures and beliefs can create significant opportunities for conservation. For example, a successful approach may necessitate local traditional hunting activities to ensure local elites, who have traditionally had major roles in hunting, “buy in” to conservation (MacMillan & Nguyen 2013 ). Or, as in the case of the Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii), a marked reduction in poaching following stronger policing of the Shahtoosh trade by Chinese authorities in the 1990s was underpinned by strong support from Tibetan communities involved in antipoaching patrols.

The mainstream adoption of this strategy would represent a radical shift from an enforcement geared approach, at ever increasing cost, to more community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), an approach that has previously proven key to conservation successes in the past. A resounding example is the recovery of the Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) in South America (McAllister et al. 2009 ). In Peru, for example, local campesino communities, in return for jobs, the construction of a school, and income from the sale of Vicuña products, bought in to conservation of the species over which they were eventually given tenure and property rights, which ultimately contributed to a reduction in poaching (Wheeler & Domingo 1997 ). Although the Parties to CITES have recently reiterated the importance of local community livelihoods in regulating trade, with the adoption of Resolution 16.6 (CITES and livelihoods), it is essential that this policy is converted into action with livelihoods given greater attention in listing decisions, implementation and funding. While we recognize that a community-based approach is not a panacea against sophisticated criminal gangs, this new strategy will remove the disincentives to conserve wildlife under current regulatory systems and may offer the best chance of conserving high-value species in the short term (Hutton & Leader-Williams 2003 Dickman et al. 2011 Clements et al. 2013 MacMillan & Nguyen 2013 ).

The introduction of regulated trade and ranching and farming of high-value endangered species should also be reexamined in the medium term, informed through further research into consumer preferences as well as biological feasibility. This approach has previously proven successful for crocodilians and led to reduced poaching pressure on wild populations, even in countries with weak governance (Hutton & Webb 2003 Jenkins et al. 2004 ). Recent research has also suggested the potential for a regulated trade in rhino horn (see Biggs et al. 2013 ), though some issues for investigation were identified here, for instance, understanding the implications for the wild population in terms of both supply aspects (e.g., transaction costs burden the legal supply chain) and demand (e.g., the relative prices of illegal and legally sourced products and the overall impact on demand). Nonetheless, should such issues be addressed, farming high-value wildlife to increase supply should theoretically reduce the price of wild species and hence reduce incentives to poach (Bulte & Damania 2005 ). Figure 4 illustrates how an increase in supply from S 1 to S 2 due to farmed production causes a reduction in price from P 1 to P 2 and crucially, reduces the off-take by poaching from the wild population. With reduced poaching and farming, the majority of consumption could comprise farmed products, Q P to Q F in Figure 4, with supply from the wild reduced, from Q 1 to Q P . Although opponents of wildlife farming have suggested that this is not a solution (e.g., Mockrin et al. 2005 Gratwicke et al. 2008 Kirkpatrick & Emerton 2010 ), the option needs to be considered carefully based on more, impartial and in-depth research into supply and demand for farmed wildlife products given the potential conservation gains, not least the sustainable flow of money legal trade could create, and should not be overlooked because conservation groups are ethically opposed to producing animals to be killed for human consumption.

Historically, significant changes in demand, rather than increased enforcement, have played a crucial role in reducing trade volumes and species recovery (Roe et al. 2002 Philip et al. 2009 ). The conservation of high-value trade-threatened species therefore necessitates coordinated efforts to manage demand, for example, reducing consumer demand through investments in ambitious social marketing campaigns targeted to consumers of wildlife and their social networks. This approach should ultimately lower incentives to poach by causing a reduction in quantity demanded and therefore price. This is represented in Figure 5 by a shift in the demand curve from D 1 to D 2 and the lowering of price from P 1 to P 2 , and quantity demanded from Q 1 to Q 2 . However, despite the urgent predicament facing many high-value species and the apparent need to reduce demand, as well as recent efforts to understand it in East Asia (e.g., Drury 2011 Dutton et al. 2011 ), there is little evidence of strategies to reduce demand having been effective here, i.e., led to measurable changes in consumer behavior. As such, more in-depth research into East Asian consumers is essential with which to inform effective interventions (Veríssimo et al. 2012 ). This necessitates a focus on consumer preferences and purchasing behavior, in particular key attributes of wildlife products and species, as well as the social dynamics of purchasing and consumption, so that the right audience can be targeted with the right message, through the right communications medium. Devising interventions to alter behavior is crucially important and can only be achieved through multidisciplinary research approaches combining consumer psychology, social marketing, economics and education to ensure that interventions go beyond merely raising awareness about wildlife consumption.


Can’t find your papers?

  • Modified past papers are listed separately and are only available for some subjects. Search for modified papers.
  • We only publish question papers and mark schemes for some current specifications, in the year following the exam. See what's available when for more information.
  • Some question papers and mark schemes are no longer available after three years, due to copyright restrictions (except for Maths and Science).

Teachers can get past papers earlier, from 10 days after the exam, in the secure key materials (SKM) area of our extranet, e-AQA.


Results & Discussion

Examples of Group A's morphology and molecular trees are shown in Figures 4 and 5. In the morphology tree, the shell-less condition of the Aplacophora is ancestral, and as a consequence, it is likely that the ancestor to all molluscs did not have a shell. Their tree also placed cephalopods and gastropods as sister taxa along with the bivalves and scaphopods, but interestingly, they did not identify a synapomorphic trait that would justify the two clades. The molecular tree complemented the morphology tree by recovering a distinct clade of gastropods and bivalves however, the Cephalapoda was more closely related to the bivalves than the gastropods in the molecular tree. In addition, a third clade consisting of Polyplacophoran and Aplacophoran specimens was recovered using the molecular data. Group A concluded that their molecular tree was more accurate as it “conformed” more closely to the trees presented in the latest phylogenomic study on molluscs.

Example of Group A's morphology tree constructed using the character matrix compiled in Table 1.

Example of Group A's morphology tree constructed using the character matrix compiled in Table 1.

Example of Group A's molecular tree constructed using the CO1 data from Table 1.

Example of Group A's molecular tree constructed using the CO1 data from Table 1.

In terms of timing, the project was assigned after two days of lectures and labs on molluscan diversity. During the project, it is important to reinforce to students that each phylogenetic tree is a hypothesis because the dataset used to generate it is limited. This is obvious in the morphological part of the study, as students must manually draw different trees and choose the most parsimonious evolutionary scenario. In contrast, for the molecular part of the study, the tree-building algorithm built into MEGA automatically chooses the best possible tree. In this case, I often direct students to review the metadata generated during the heuristic search so they can observe the number of tree arrangements that have occurred before the program produces the “best possible” tree.

This project emphasizes the importance of using PBL to actively engage students in the scientific process by having them complete the procedures that were used to generate the results and theories that they learn about during lecture (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). In addition, we incorporated certain aspects of Bioinformatics into the project, such as DNA sequence mining and editing, along with multiple alignments. This is crucial training for undergraduates at all levels, as the future of the Biosciences is strongly associated with the field of Bioinformatics (David, 2017). One caveat of this project is that it was designed for a zoology course in which phylogenetics played a central role in the course curriculum. As many professors know, zoology is arguably the broadest discipline of all the biological sciences and can be taught in a variety of styles, with some instructors opting for alternative approaches to the phylogenetic-based framework. Furthermore, for this project to be worthwhile to students, it is imperative that they have a firm understanding of phylogenetic theory, which can be accomplished by reinforcing basic concepts in the early lectures and assigning key phylogenetic papers during the semester. Papers that were assigned that I considered to be most critical to zoology include a landmark review piece by Halanych (2004), who addressed the influence of molecular data on the tree of life, along with papers by Struck et al. (2007) on Annelid evolution, Kocot et al. (2011) on molluscan evolution, and more recently, a controversial but informative commentary by Halanych (2015) and Whelan et al. (2015), both of whom argue that the basal position on the tree of life should be occupied by ctenophores, not sponges—a hypothesis that is still met with considerable backlash by some zoologists.

Aside from organismal-centered courses, this exercise is also appropriate for any upper-level biology course where phylogenetic trees play a central role, e.g., Systematics, Bioinformatics, Population Genetics, and Evolution. In addition, this project could also be given as a challenge to high-performing students in introductory biology courses, but will need to be repackaged and executed in a different manner than is outlined in this paper. I would suggest that at the freshman or sophomore level, instructors should edit and align the sequences so that students would only be required to execute the NJ analysis in MEGA. The instructor should also omit the dense background information on NJ and ML methods of building phylogenetic trees, and should provide a one-page info sheet with biological information (physiological and ecological) on the ingroup taxa along with pictures of each taxon. Although we used molluscan evolution as a case study, the instructor could in theory choose any group providing that (a) enough taxonomic information is available to clearly distinguish the in-group taxa morphologically, and (b) DNA sequences for a specific genetic marker are available for each taxon on public online repositories that students can access.

Fruitful discussions at the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Summer Institute workshop in June 2016 were instrumental in the development of this project. The financial support of the Biology Department at Clarkson University was also extremely helpful in designing a zoology course consistent with the NSF's Vision and Change manifesto. Finally, this paper is dedicated to Clarkson's Biology undergraduates, whose critical feedback over the past two years has played the biggest role in changing my view of how zoology should be taught in the 21st century.