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Auction to name new, rare sea lily species

By Leonard Ho - Posted
Still haven't purchased a Xmas gift for that person who has everything? If you've got a few thousand bucks, you can have a new species of sea lily named after him/her. Auctioning away taxonomic naming rights is becoming more commonplace. It helps to defray the expensive process of cataloging new species as well as gets the public involved in science. The auction ends Dec 22, 2014!

From the Nova Southeastern University:


'Tis the season to be jolly, or so the song goes. But for some, trying to find that one-of-a-kind gift for the person who has everything is a yearly struggle.

But don't fret – if you're one of the people stressing out trying to find a unique gift, Nova Southeastern University has got you covered!

That's because one of the researchers at NSU's Oceanographic Center, Charles Messing, Ph.D., is auctioning off the naming rights on eBay to a new species of new sea lily he discovered. Sea lilies are extremely rare – only about 110 are known to exist worldwide, which makes naming it the perfect gift for the person who has everything.

"Imagine finding a tiger roaming the Florida Everglades, that would be rare enough," Messing said. "Now imagine that tiger has six legs – that would be an extremely rare find. That's just how rare a new sea lily is."

You can find the online auction here – But you've got to hurry – the auction ends December 22.

As is customary in the scientific world, the expert in the specific field has the honor of naming a new species when it's discovered. While finding a new sea lily is rare, discovering new marine life isn't rare for Messing. In fact, he has several discoveries named for him – from a crab to a small shrimp to a worm to another sea lily. So, rather than taking the opportunity to name this new find, Messing knew there are people around the nation – and the world – who are looking to find just the right holiday gift, so he decided to auction off the naming rights on eBay.

"I figured 'why not' – it's a great way for someone to create a lasting legacy while making a significant financial contribution that will help continue the work at NSU's Oceanographic Center," Messing said. "The name can reference the donor, a family member or loved one. This opportunity gives someone a real, concrete way to support marine biology research – there's so much more we need to learn about our oceans and we couldn’t do it without the support of our community, and it's a pretty cool gift."

Almost every year, researchers at NSU's Oceanographic Center discover new species of marine life, but this is something unique. And, despite its name and plantlike appearance, Messing said it's really an animal, related to sea stars and sea urchins.

The final name of this new sea lily species will be published in a scientific journal as part of the permanent record of biodiversity. Only four specimens have been collected; they will be deposited into permanent museum collections, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

"This truly is a gift that will keep on giving," Messing said. "Whoever wins the auction, their name – or that of a loved one – will be talked about a scientific conferences and will be in scientific journals for years to come."

Try getting that sort of legacy from the latest computer tablet.

Usually, naming rights for creatures such as beetles, butterflies or orchids range from about $3,000 to $5,000 each. However, those species number in the tens of thousands, while the scientific community only knows of about 110 species of sea lilies throughout the world's oceans, all of which are restricted to deep waters. Given the rarity of this animal, NSU has set the opening bid on this charitable auction at $4,000, but Messing is confident the final amount will be much higher. By going the eBay route, it opens up this opportunity to even more people, many of whom may not realize this is something available to them.

The funds raised will be used to support marine biodiversity research expeditions around the world, as well as graduate student research at NSU. The successful donor will receive acknowledgement of the source of the name in the publication describing the species, copies of the publication, and a framed and matted composite piece including a photographic print of the animal as well as one of Messing’s original pen-and-ink illustrations for the paper.

Messing is a professor at NSU's Oceanographic Center; his areas of research include the systematics, evolution and ecology of living Crinoidea, the group to which sea lilies belong, and the ecology and biogeography of tropical deep-water, rocky-bottom invertebrate communities (e.g., corals, octocorals, echinoderms, sponges). In his decades of exploring the ocean's biodiversity using scuba, submersibles and robotic vehicles, Messing has previously described nine new crinoid species, but this one is the most curious, and the first one for which he has offered naming rights.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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