This should be interesting. In the June issue of Scientific American, I wrote an article called “What Is A Species?” I wrote about the challenges scientists face in drawing a line between species, especially when they have only recently diverged from a common ancestor and are still interbreeding. One of the best examples of how scientists tackle this challenge came out of a conversation I had with Jason Bond, an East Carolina University biologist who studies trapdoor-building spiders. In the article I explained how he studies the evolutionary history of the spiders, their adaptation to ecolical niches, and the flow of genes from one population to another. Combining these lines of evidence, he then proposes new species.
In May, Bond made big news by naming one of his spiders after Neil Young. Colbert lambasted Bond, and Science In General, for not naming a species after him (video below). Bond has plenty of spiders to name, so he submitted to Colbert’s demand, and he’s going to go on the Colbert Report tonight to unveil the newly named species. I asked Bond for the details, and he says a paper on the spider will be posted tomorrow on the web site of the journal Systematic Biology. [Update: The paper’s online, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be open access, as I had expected. Now it’s free!]
I’m not sure there’s a joke to be made about species delimitation, but I’m hoping Colbert is up to the challenge.
And here’s the clip when Bond and Colbert talk on the phone…