Fun Terms in Science

Most of the time we think of scientific terminology as really dry. In the last week I’ve run across uses of several terms that I want to share to counteract that impression.

  1. When I discussed Lazarus taxa and the coelacanth I could have extended the discussion to Elvis taxa. Lazarus taxa are taxa that appear to die off in the fossil record and then re-emerge. Elvis taxa really do disappear, but are replaced by look-alike taxa.
  2. A Darwinian Demon is a creature that can optimize fitness across all axes simultaneously. They don’t exist, but are used as hypotheticals to think about how optimization constraints affect real species. (For an example linked to something else I do, in 100 Places a Darwinian Demon could allocate 100% of its energy to everything.)
  3. Dust bunny distributions are distributions which, when graphed, have all the points shoved into corners and edges. I’m totally serious about this. Look, here’s a serious analysis of this issue.