Turtle v. Snake

Oct. 16, 2018

Travis Thomas is a rookie turtle researcher in Florida. He was on the verge of publishing his first big paper and naming two new species of turtle when he found out he’d been scooped by a stranger in Australia: Raymond Hoser, a.k.a. the Snake Man. Raymond is a reptile wrangler and amateur herpetologist who’s managed to name hundreds of animals—and has made a lot of enemies in the process. In this episode of Undiscovered, Travis sets out to get his turtles back, and Annie and Elah set out to find out how and why the Snake Man does what he does.



Travis Thomas, PhD student, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Robert Sprackland, herpetologist, visiting researcher at the Smithsonian Institution

Raymond Hoser, founder of the Australasian Journal of Herpetology, owner of Snakebusters



Read Travis Thomas et al.’s 2014 paper splitting alligator snapping turtles into three species, Raymond Hoser's 2013 paper, Raymond's response to Thomas et al. (pg. 19), and a later paper arguing for a different classification.

Check out Raymond’s website where he responds to his critics, lists the animal taxa (species, genera, etc.) he’s named, and posts the Australasian Journal of Herpetology.

Crack open the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature’s big book of rules for naming animals.

Read articles about “taxonomic vandalism” that criticize Raymond Hoser.

Dive into this great Nautilus piece on prolific species namers in history and the ire they provoked.



This episode of Undiscovered was produced by Elah Feder, Alexa Lim, and Annie Minoff  We had production help from Sushmita Pathak who brought us this story. Our senior editor is Christopher Intagliata, our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt, and our intern is Kaitlyn Schwalje. Our theme music is by I Am Robot And Proud. We had fact checking help from Michelle Harris. Thanks, as always, to the entire Science Friday staff, and the folks at WNYC Studios, especially Tony Phillips and Jenny Lawton for feedback on this story.


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