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Pennsylvanian Arachnid Donated to Illinois State Museum


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It is a rather odd (and obscure) reference in the etymology section of the paper describing this new species:

 

Etymology.—Named for the eleventh century crusader Marc
Guiscard, who received the nickname Bohemond (after a
mythical giant) due to his immense stature, in recognition of
the large size of the fossil specimen.

 

I guess you can't have an honorific (named in someone's honor) species name that is named for a mythological giant but naming it for a crusader from a millennium ago stays within the rules. A quick search online seems to show this genus already has a handful of species:

 

http://fossilworks.org/bridge.pl?a=taxonInfo&taxon_no=211976

 

One of those, Curculioides gigas, already carries the Greek term for "giant" and so the author deviated from the more normal Greek/Latin wordplay and went deep historical to come up with another way to express "giant". There were still many options (magnus, ingens, grandis, amplus) that might have been used. I'm all for scientific names that describe an obvious feature of an organism and favor those over honorifics in most cases--smithi or jonesi tell you nothing about the organism. IMHO the chosen name of bohemondi looks to be honoring someone who really had nothing to do with this species (or spiders in general) and, unless you are a scholar of the crusades, is a bit misleading. Quite often, when a specimen is donated that turns out to be a new species, the author chooses to use an honorific name to honor the donor but it is by no means required. I think (again IMHO) that this would have been a "better" species as C. magnus or C. amplus (but that's just me). ;)

 

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." And in terms of this cool little big spider, your name is forever linked with its discovery. :)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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3 hours ago, deutscheben said:

As far as the name goes, I wasn’t sure about the etiquette and didn’t want to be presumptuous by asking for it. After all, the authors did the intensive work needed to determine it was a new species. I’ll just keep hunting for more new fossils and perhaps somewhere down the line one will bear my name. Being a part of the scientific process is honestly the best reward.

 

 

I call foul ... donating a rare-giant spider should have been rewarded with the customary honor. Without your extraordinary generosity, this magnificent new species would not even exist. Stories like this only serve to disincentivize amateurs from making important donations. Shameful! 

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Really neat fossil. In the future, it really is not bad manners to approach a researcher in a case like this and broach the subject of naming the species after you. 

 

Do you still visit the site? I'd be really keen to see if some vertebrate material might turn up in those rocks sometime.

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Jeffrey P

Congrats. Quite an honor, but a well deserved one. Great to have discovered a new species and donated it to science. 

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deutscheben

Thanks @jdp, @Jeffrey P, and @t-tree
 

I appreciate everyone’s knowledge and advice about the naming and will definitely ask next time (with fingers crossed that there will be one :fingerscrossed:). 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/21/2021 at 9:49 AM, piranha said:

 

 

I call foul ... donating a rare-giant spider should have been rewarded with the customary honor. Without your extraordinary generosity, this magnificent new species would not even exist. Stories like this only serve to disincentivize amateurs from making important donations. Shameful! 

 

I have to agree with you, Scott.  It wasn't like it was anonymously dumped on the doorstep with some river rocks.  Deutscheben not only knew it was a spider, he knew  what kind of spider.  With a few publications, it sounds like he could have described it and named it after Scarlett Johanson.  He could have kept it or made some real money but he decided to be extraordinarily generous to science instead.  Who hands over an unusual gold nugget to a museum?  If the co-authors had named it to honor a colleague in the field who'd been overlooked for years, I would understand, but they went out of their way not to name it after the donor by complimenting some dude from 1000 years ago who nobody on "Jeopardy" would even guess at.

 

If I find some new, rare fossil giant spider, I'm donating it to Boesse.  He doesn't have to name it after me.  He'll at least name it after somebody who deserves it for something else.

 

Jess 

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fossilcrazee

Amazing! Congrats on this awesome contribution. I agree with many others who think there would have been more honor if it had been named after its generous donor.

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We donate these SIS (Scientifically Important Specimens) because we know it is the right thing to do and it gives us a real buzz being able to contribute to science as avocational fossil hunters. Generally, we don't seek any glory (beyond a nice Paleo-partner award) for our actions content in our hearts that we have played our part and advanced fossil knowledge with our contribution. Agreed, it would be a much better story in the retelling (and I'm sure @deutscheben will enjoy recounting this story to friends and family) if he could claim that the species was named in his honor but I guess this will just spur him on to finding more unique specimens to contribute in the future. ;)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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On 2/3/2021 at 3:29 PM, digit said:

We donate these SIS (Scientifically Important Specimens) because we know it is the right thing to do and it gives us a real buzz being able to contribute to science as avocational fossil hunters. Generally, we don't seek any glory (beyond a nice Paleo-partner award) for our actions content in our hearts that we have played our part and advanced fossil knowledge with our contribution. Agreed, it would be a much better story in the retelling (and I'm sure @deutscheben will enjoy recounting this story to friends and family) if he could claim that the species was named in his honor but I guess this will just spur him on to finding more unique specimens to contribute in the future. ;)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

Hi Ken,

 

I agree with you in principle, of course, and Deutscheben is taking the high road, but forgive a few of us if we show a little outrage.  I was trying to think of something from Florida that would roughly match the rarity of what he found and the collector value, not necessarily a money value but the "cool value."  I think if you found a complete bone of another species of large flightless bird (besides Titanis walleri, named after the legendary collector, Ben Waller) that would be the equivalent.

 

Jess 

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I don't think insult was meant. Sometimes the person doing the scientific work may be three or four degrees separate from the original collector. Without that personal relationship things like this can be missed or forgotten, especially if the person doing the scientific work doesn't have much experience working with amateurs. I think a lot of amateurs will simply foster close relationships with their local person, but that person probably doesn't have the background and time/personnel to be able to do all the research themselves, so they may send specimens off to colleagues elsewhere if they don't just stash the fossil in a drawer while telling themselves they'll work on it soon. If they do the former (rather than get the amateur in touch with the right scientist) then there isn't a chance for the specialist to develop a real relationship with the amateur. I think that may be what happened here.

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2 hours ago, jdp said:

I don't think insult was meant. Sometimes the person doing the scientific work may be three or four degrees separate from the original collector. Without that personal relationship things like this can be missed or forgotten, especially if the person doing the scientific work doesn't have much experience working with amateurs. I think a lot of amateurs will simply foster close relationships with their local person, but that person probably doesn't have the background and time/personnel to be able to do all the research themselves, so they may send specimens off to colleagues elsewhere if they don't just stash the fossil in a drawer while telling themselves they'll work on it soon. If they do the former (rather than get the amateur in touch with the right scientist) then there isn't a chance for the specialist to develop a real relationship with the amateur. I think that may be what happened here.

 

I can see that as a possibility, but for something as incredibly rare as a spider and a new taxon on top of it, don't you think the average paleontologist would want to at least ask about and contact the collector?  Naming it after some obscure person with no connection at all didn't add real meaning to the species name.  As I think about it again, that might be part of what bugs me about it.  It just seems more like an afterthought than a thoughtful decision.

 

It is good of you to bring that up because the snub I perceive may not have been intentional.  It's just that I've seen similar situations handled differently.  I've even seen a situation in which a taxon was named after a friend for a bone he donated years before.  I happened to run across the description in a publication I bought and I told my friend.  He was pleasantly surprised and I tried to find the researcher on his behalf but it appears he was not associated with a school or museum (or perhaps retired) and I couldn't find him. 

 

Jess

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deutscheben

I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this issue, and I hope it proves informative to others reading it. To add some context, the paper on the arachnid was written by a grad student working under the professor I contacted- I never communicated or contacted the grad student at all, and this appears to be their first published work, so as @jdp suggested there was no direct relationship for them to consider.  @digit captured my personal perspective very well- I hunt fossils for the joy of discovery and the hope of contributing to science, and this find satisfied both of those to the utmost, so I really do not feel snubbed or insulted. At the same time, I understand those who would- this whole forum is a testament to the vital importance of amateur contributions to the science of paleontology and so it would be natural to take it personally if something seems to undercut or diminish that.   

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So what I will say is this. Not all grad students have much field experience or experience working with amateur collectors. Some do, obviously, but many just simply don't. So when a new species is put in front of them, they may have their own range of people they want to honor or reference, or they may have a species name they have been carrying with them for years, and they may feel that this specimen right now might be their only change to erect a new name. As someone who has been a part of naming a bunch of new species, I can say with some confidence that there really is no shortage of new taxa out there. However, someone new to the field who may not have the experience of working closely with folks like you might have just been too eager to attach the name they've been carrying in their heart for years, and didn't stop to think that there might be other people who are attached to the fossil. Again, I don't think insult was intended.

 

I'm going into this in some detail because I think it's important for folks like you, who do so much of the important fieldwork that keeps our field going, to understand how to navigate situations like this in order to get what you want out of the interaction. In the event that having a new species named after you is important, it's important to find someone who works on that specific fossil group who you can be directly in touch with....going through your local person may not be effective nor is necessarily going through the big name at a major international institution. Reaching out to researchers through email or on social media is totally fine, and your local person shouldn't be insulted if you make those connections yourself. Or, if your local person is planning on sending the material to a colleague, it is reasonable to ask if you can be included in the communications and introduced. If a professor is planning on putting a student on the project (which is normal) it is fair to ask to be introduced to the student. Don't be too pushy about everything and give them room to work, but it's fair to be introduced to the person doing the work and to ask about having the species named after you if that is important to you. It's also just good to foster those relationships because that person can be a good long-term contact for you in the future.

 

Hope this helps a bit! Let me know if you have additional questions.

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FossilDAWG

I have to say that I find @deutscheben's attitude to be inspirational, really a model of what we should all aspire to.  @jdp has offered a very useful perspective, and excellent advice for anyone so fortunate as to discover a scientifically important specimen.  By luck and curiosity I have almost always followed the advice to stay in touch with the researcher working on "my" fossils and when I did that it always turned out well.  One time when I got busy/distracted and I did not stay in touch I was "demoted" to an acknowledgement.

 

All that being said, I hope we can focus on congratulating deutscheben on his discovery and contribution to science.  I think we have addressed the question of whether or not he was treated fairly; we should not let that issue detract from celebrating his achievement.

 

Don

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Yes, absolutely!

 

On the subject of all of this, would it help if I wrote a reasonably in-depth how-to on navigating collaboration with professionals as a stand-alone post?

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Fossildude19
13 minutes ago, jdp said:

Yes, absolutely!

 

On the subject of all of this, would it help if I wrote a reasonably in-depth how-to on navigating collaboration with professionals as a stand-alone post?

 

It definitely couldn't hurt. :)

I'm sure we could all benefit from a writeup on this.  

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Then I'll throw something together when I have the chance!

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  • 2 weeks later...
5 hours ago, Nimravis said:

Congrats Ben. Just saw this, great find.

 
Thanks, Ralph!

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