FAST BACKWARD: Honoring people thru taxonomy

Fast Backward : Antonio V. Figueroa

Taxonomy is more than just a field of naming and classifying plants and animals; it is also a rich source of historical nuggets. Well-known personalities, for some reason, are honored by naming newly-discovered fauna and flora, including cultivars and hybrids, after them.

Dr. Jose P. Rizal, recognized as botanist and zoologist, has three scientific names to his credit. The animals, which he personally sent for classification to fellows in the scientific circles of Europe, are a beetle (Apogonia rizali), a frog (Rachophorus rizali), and a reptile (Draco rizali).

It was during the American occupation, though, when taxonomy became significant. Thousands of unnamed plants and animals were given scientific labels chosen by eminent scientists that were enlisted by the colonial government.

Even the Bagobo, as a tribe, also got its share of credit. For instance, a common crane fly was entered the registry as L. bagobo Alexander, while a bird discovered in 1930 in the Bagobo territory was named Collocalia esculenta bagobo Hachisuka. An insect was tagged as C. esculenta bagobo D. distinctus ssp., while the Bagobo rat of Davao del Sur is known as (Bullimus bagobus).

Even Davao district governor Edward Robert Bolton, murdered on June 6, 1906 in Lacaro, Malita, Davao Occidental, has been taxonomically honored. The terrestrial fern Cheilanthes boltoni Copeland found on rocks along the sea at Malalag, Davao del Sur, has been named in his memory, and, similarly, the Mt. Apo sun-bird, called kapoya-poya among the Bagobos and was discovered at Tudaya, Santa Cruz, is now scientifically known as Aethopyga boltoni sp. nov.

House speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was honored with a new blight-resistant potato variety bred by the Benguet State University. It was named Gloria Kamaptengan and sourced from the Centro Internationale de la Papa (International Potato Center) in Lima, Peru. It was originally codenamed 13.1.1.

A new orchid variety bred by former justice secretary Hernando B. Perez was named after his boss, former president Corazon Aquino. It was registered as Blc Cory Aquino (Brassolaeliocattleya Cory Aquino) and was described as “a graceful but sturdy plant with yellow and green varieties that sport pink outer petals.”

2018 has had also its share of taxonomic developments. A pitcher plant, one of four found in Mount Hamiguitan in San Isidro, Davao Oriental, was named after its town mayor, Justina Yu. Scientifically, the new species is now known as Nepenthes justinae. The other endemic pitcher plants of the area are the Nepenthes peltata, Nepenthes micramphora, and Nepenthes hamiguitanensis.

Call it luck or the product of political achievements, the Duterte family has also been honored appropriately with three varieties or cultivars of Bromeliad. Officially, the plants are registered as Neoregelia ‘Rody Duterte’, Neoregelia ‘Inday Sara,’ and Neoregelia ‘Elizabeth Duterte.’

The ‘Rody Duterte’ cultivar, entered in the registry # 13584, is a “mature open rosette to 50 cm. diameter x 30 cm high” with “broad, black-spined, bronze-green leaves with sepia black tips and reddish-brown concentric cross-banding; and a hot pink central cup at blooming.”

The ‘Inday Sara’ variety, on the other hand, is a “mature, open rosette to 34 cm diameter x 26 cm. high” with “broad, light green inner leaves with rosy red, random patches and partial concentric rings plus rounded, indented bright leaf tips.”

The Neoregelia ‘Elizabeth Duterte,’ meanwhile, is registered as No. 13967; it is a “mature, open rosette to 65 cm. diameter x 48 cm. high” and in “strong light, the plant turns fuchsia pink, and has glossy broad leaves with a deeper pink cup when blooming.”

But Sara has another feather on her cap. A team of biodiversityexperts from the University of Mindanao named a new Philippine hoya (a wax plant) species from Dinagat Province Hoya indaysarae (with pinkish color at its apex and measures 1.4 cm) in honor of the lady mayor.

The same team also honored the school’s president, Dr. Guillermo P. Torres Jr., with a newly-discovered beetle now scientifically known as Metapocyrtus willietorres. The insect can be found at an elevation of 1, 800 meters above sea level in the forests of Mindanao.

Balut Island, likewise, is proud of its Vexillum balutensisandTegula balutensis, both marine mollusks. The island of Sarangani has lent its name to a land snail scientifically known as Calocochlia saranganica Hidalgo discovered in 1887. Other sea creatures named after Sarangani are the Hydropsyche saranganica Ulmer (1951), Scelotrichia saranganica Ulmer (1951), Helicostyla saranganica Moellendorff (1890), and Obba saranganica Hidalgo.

The rare conch alternately known as the bat volute (Cymbiola vespertilio matiensis) is named after Mati City. This shell, superbly colored in shades of red and discovered in 1903, is a large predatory sea snail and marine gastropod mollusk.

On the other hand, a magnolia from Samal carries the name Salvia samalensis, while an herb has been scientifically labeled as Montanoa samalensis J. M. Coulter. There is also a fungus called Graphis samalensis, and an insect known as the Metapocyrtus samalensis. Scientists have also identified a beetle that is endemic to the island-city under the genus Metapocyrtus Heller 1912, namely: the Artapocyrtus bifasciatus samalensis and Artapocyrtus falsoquadrulifer samalensis.