Species are hard to define, as they don’t fit neatly into the categories that science wants to put them into. But increasingly, people are naming new species without enough evidence to suggest they are indeed a separate taxon. Graihagh Jackson investigates why so-called taxonomic vandalism is on the rise and what we can do about it
Science has long tried to divide nature into discrete categories. But the natural world doesn’t fit neatly into glass cabinets – the distinction between species is often much more fluid and blurred. So much so, that debates between academics often break out when they are trying to decide whether a newly discovered creature is a de novo taxa or belongs to an existing species. This has been the case with the marbled crayfish – it’s closely related to slough crayfish but unlike their American counterparts, it can reproduce asexually. Some argue it’s a new species, others disagree and believe that there’s not enough evidence.