Thursday, April 08, 2010

Controversy in Science!

Identity crisis for fly that’s the apple of scientists’ eye

The Times, By Mark Henderson, April 8

It is an icon of modern science, a species so important to biological research that its official Latin name is better known in laboratories than that of any organism bar Homo sapiens.

Yet Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, which has guided many of the most important genetic advances of the past century, is in the throes of an identity crisis that has divided science.

A ruling by the body that governs the official naming of animals has left the insect in danger of losing its celebrated title, just as scientists are marking the centenary this year of the work that first brought it to prominence.

New analysis indicates that D. melanogaster, which means “dark-bellied dew-lover”, does not properly belong to the genus Drosophila and should be renamed Sophophora melanogaster, or “dark-bellied bearer of wisdom”. A move to protect its name in light of this research, however, was dismissed this week by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).

The decision has split the scientific community. Some argue that renaming such a well-known species would betray its history and confuse the public. Others contend that preserving the name would require the redesignation of hundreds of other fruit fly species.
It's Pluto all over again!


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