Looking for Carretochelys eggs many years ago.

Looking for Carretochelys eggs many years ago.

Basically I am a Zoologist and have considered myself one for probably longer than my qualifications on paper recognized it as such. However I have been formally working as a taxonomist and paleontologist since 1994. I did an undergraduate degree specializing in Zoology and a Masters at the University of Canberra, my work there was focused on the turtles of the family Chelidae.

I use morphology and morphometrics for the most part. Detailed skeletal and musculature analysis of many specimens of many species. In my descriptions the molecular analyses I use are generally contributed from my co-authors, I understand and could do molecular sequencing, but I prefer the “old school” taxonomy of morphology. This is not a slight on molecular analysis it is a highly valuable tool and one I am keen to utilize when I name species. The advantage to me with the morphological approach is it allows me to consider the fossil record appropriately, something that is becoming more prevalent with Molecular Phylogenists now calibrating their trees using the Beast program.

Having pretty much minored in Math’s and Statistics I do my own statistical analysis, I would suggest to any undergrad, to get enough math’s into their undergraduate degree to do your own stats, makes it much easier and cheaper.  My preference is the program SAS as its programmable and is hence a far superior tool.

Southern New Guinea Stream Turtle. Photo by Arthur Georges.

Southern New Guinea Stream Turtle (Elseya rhodini). Photo by Arthur Georges.

While at the University of Canberra I was able to name 5 species of turtles and one genus. From the fossil record I named Rheodytes devisi (Thomson, 2000) from the Pleistocene of Queensland and Elseya nadibajagu (Thomson and Mackness, 1999) from the Pliocene of Queensland. Among the living species I named Cann’s Long-neck Turtle, Chelodina (C.) canni (McCord and Thomson, 2002); The Sandstone Snake-neck Turtle, Chelodina (M.) burrungandjii (Thomson et al. 2000); and the White Throated Snapping Turtle, Elseya albagula (Thomson et al. 2006). The genus I named was for the Australian Saw Shelled Turtles called Myuchelys (Thomson and Georges, 2009) and contains three species at present, Myuchelys latisternum, Myuchelys belli and Myuchelys georgesi. Arthur Georges and I after this published a major synonymy and keys for the Australian and New Guinea species of turtles (Georges and Thomson, 2010).

In 2009 I left Australia and lived in the north of the USA for about 5 years, I was mostly writing and researching nomenclatural issues throughout this time. I was already a member of the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG) a Species Survival Commision (SSC) of the IUCN. However during this time I became heavily involved in the annual checklist of turtles and am now a member of the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group where I assist with the checklist of living turtles and am a co-author on the checklist of fossil turtles.

As of February 2014 I moved myself to Brazil, where I am to spend considerable time continuing to work on Chelid and Pelomedusid turtles with a particular focus on the fossil species. I am associated as a researcher with the  Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo. Since arriving in Brasil I have named another species Elseya rhodini and split the genus Elseya into three subgenera. One of these was a new name Hanwarachelys for the New Guinea Stream Turtles. The Queensland Snapping turtles had an old name available Pelocomastes, so that was resurrected.

At the Museum of Victoria where Arthur Georges and I spent a week unpacking identifying and repacking every turtle in the collection.

At the Museum of Victoria where Arthur Georges and I spent a week unpacking identifying and repacking every turtle in the collection.

My interest in Nomenclature comes from my having to deal with this across large numbers of species, having done many synonymies, looked up type specimens, examined them, the work of taxonomy. Many names are not well identified, many names have problems. An issue that still continues. As such among my publications are some 5 in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature where I am making the case for one issue or another. So nomenclature though not a science, its about names and their availability for use, is important to biology. After all whatever species you are interested in, it has a name, nomenclature is how that name is determined.

Scott Thomson

Museu de Zoologia de USP



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