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Brown's research featured in Nature

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rafe Brown was recently featured in the September 11, 2013 issue of Nature. Dr. Brown, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and curator-in-charge of the herpetology division of the Biodiversity Institute is featured in the article, Taxonomy: The spy who loved frogs. The article reflects on Brown’s connection with his predecessor, Edward Taylor, who logged 23 years in the field collecting more than 75,000 specimens around the world and naming hundreds of new species. Dr. Taylor’s work included extensive collections of lizards in the Philippines; of special interest was the Philippine parachute gecko, an unusual lizard that could glide from the tree tops. Driven by curiosity, Brown learned that Taylor collected the first known example, the type specimen, of this strange lizard in the town of Bunawan in 1912; but many of Taylor’s specimens were lost or destroyed during World War II. Brown found the parachute lizard in the field and designated a type specimen to replace the original. This is one example of Brown’s following in his mentor’s footsteps by studying biodiversity in the Philippines and searching for Taylor’s ‘lost’ species. Over the years, Brown has rebuilt some of Taylor’s collection and resurrected many of his species. Following Taylor’s trail has given Brown cause for optimism. “A lot of things people thought were extinct,” he said, “if you go right where Taylor said to go, you can find them.” Taylor’s fascinating personal characteristics are woven into the story of his scientific contributions, as are his activities as a spy during two world wars.

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