Saturday, August 9, 2008

People of Barbados argue with scientist over...a snake? Eww!

Barbadonians?...Barbadians?...Barbarians?...The people of Barbados (it was getting too confusing) are angry that a scientist has named a new species that's native to the Caribbean island after his wife. What strikes me as odd is that the new species they're arguing over is the world's smallest snake.

The Barbadians (I checked, this is what they prefer to be called) are justifiably angry, since most of them have grown up with the snake being a familiar sight long before science knew of it. Therefore, in my opinion, they do have some claim as to what the snake should ultimately be called. The locals refer to it as the thread snake, and full-grown adults typically grow to be less than four inches (or 10 centimeters) long.

The scientist, Penn State University evolutionary biologist S. Blair Hedges, has been making a BIG name for himself by discovering the smallest of creatures, including the world's tiniest lizard in the Dominican Republic and the world's smallest frog in Cuba. I guess he does deserve some props, I mean he obviously took the more difficult road of looking for the harder to find tiniest animals than the more obviously easier to find bigger ones.

Hedges told The Associated Press on Friday that he understands why the Barbadians' are angry, but according to "established scientific practice" the first person to do a "full description of a species" is considered the one to discover it and gets to give it a scientific name. He named it Leptotyphlops carlae, after his wife Carla.

Damon Corrie, president of the Caribbean Herpetological Society, acknowledges that Dr. Hedges is the first to "scientifically examine and describe the snake," but feels that the so called discovery makes locals seem ignorant.

"It gives the impression that people here ... depend on people from abroad to come and show us things in our own backyard," Corrie said.

I have to say that is a valid way of looking at it, and I have to support the Barbadians on this one.

If it makes the Barbadians feel better, I'm pretty sure Dr. Hedges isn't seeing much peace at home. I mean I'm guessing his wife married him knowing he worked with snakes, but if she's like any of the women I know she probably doesn't care for them. I can just imagine what it was like when he told her:

"You named a snake after me? What did you really mean by that? My mother was write about you. I should have married the proctologist, but nooooooo. How about you work on discovering how to put the seat down, or how to mow the lawn! Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh."

Oh wait, according to this she's a herpetologist. Huh, fancy that.

Dr. Hass, I apologize for my previous remarks and assumptions. I mark this as the first official making-a-fool-of-myself moment on this blog. Congratulations, Dr. Carla Ann Hass. Unfortunately you win no award, trophy, or prize money. But you do earn the title of coolest women I've ever heard of.

I guess when she really heard the news, it was really more like:
"You named a snake after me? That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me."

Sorry Barbadians, looks like you should be mad after all.

What strikes me as the most odd thing here is how people are arguing over the naming rights...of a snake. People don't usually show this much interest in the naming of other snakes; people don't usually show this much love for snakes period. Then again I guess since it's so small the Barbadians aren't afraid of them. Ironically though, if they keep playing tug-of-war over what to name the snake, it won't be the world's smallest snake anymore.


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