Misspelled scientific names

Correctly spelling scientific names has never been easy. The words and their forms are unfamiliar to most people. Today’s word processors are no help; their spell checkers could hardly be expected to include the scientific names of even common species.

So misspelled scientific names are inevitable. These misspellings can be a problem for anyone doing computerized searches for a particular scientific name. But, for the most part, misspellings are a curiosity and a source of momentary delight for readers.

The California condor has been assigned a number of scientific names through the years. In this post, I note some examples of how those names have been misspelled (and do so with trepidation as I have and will surely continue to misspell names).

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Range maps

Last year, James K. Sheppard won an award for his 3-dimensional map of the space utilized by a single California condor. This remarkable map was made possible by data obtained from a global positioning system (GPS) device attached to the condor’s wing. Developing the map required complex analysis performed on a supercomputer, plus artistic talent.

Sheppard’s remarkable map, and all the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition 2015, can be seen here.

Maps such as Sheppard’s have become possible thanks to new technologies. In the past, information showing where a species of bird lives was often presented only in words.

For example, Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds did not include range maps in the 1st (1941) or 2nd (1961) editions. The 3rd edition (1990) does include maps showing where bird species breed, winter, and are resident year-round. But there is no such map for the California condor. All condors were in captivity at this time. There is only a 1-sentence description of their former range. (The 1st 3 editions of Peterson’s guide were published by Houghton Mifflin.)

In recent years, range maps have become more common. Even the typical maps that show range in 2 dimensions can convey a great deal of valuable information about where birds live.

To demonstrate the variety of range maps and how they have changed through time, I present 10 maps for the California condor. These are in chronological order.

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