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Ivory-billed woodpecker spotted; plays tennis

Well, it now appears that the ivory-billed woodpecker does exist. The three skeptics who had questioned the evidence presented in a Science paper that the birds were living in an Arkansas swamp now say they are ?strongly convinced that there is at least a pair of ivory bills out there,? according to the New York Times. Very good for ornithologists, the woodpecker, and for those who champion the millions being spent to maintain natural habitats. What was curious about the episode from a scie

By | August 3, 2005

Well, it now appears that the ivory-billed woodpecker does exist. The three skeptics who had questioned the evidence presented in a Science paper that the birds were living in an Arkansas swamp now say they are ?strongly convinced that there is at least a pair of ivory bills out there,? according to the New York Times. Very good for ornithologists, the woodpecker, and for those who champion the millions being spent to maintain natural habitats. What was curious about the episode from a scientific publishing standpoint, however, was that the skeptical authors submitted their (now withdrawn) rebuttal of a Science paper to?..the Public Library of Science. I asked one of the authors, Jerome Jackson, why they made that decision. He told me via Email yesterday that he had nothing to do with making it ? the senior author, Richard Prum, did ? but his sense was that Science treats rebuttals with a ?tight rope.? The paragraph or two allotted, he said, wouldn?t be adequate. ?The reason for going with PLoS was also apparently speed of publication,? he said. There was ?a need to get this out quickly because of the money being expended and other projects suffering budget cuts to provide the $10 million-plus for ivory bill recovery.? Although additional recordings released by the Science authors convinced Jackson?s co-authors ? he said he hadn?t heard them yet ? he still had strong words for the original video. ?Indeed, our analysis revealed that two of the photos of ?ivory-bills? in the on-line supplement to the ivory-bill article were not even of birds, let alone ivory-bills,? he said. ?They were dead tree stubs. Our detailed analysis of the video also strongly suggested that the bird in the video was a Pileated Woodpecker. The new recordings came from about 100 miles away. Nonetheless, my coauthors made the decision to withdraw our manuscript from PLoS. Such is the stuff of Science (and politics?).? Indeed.
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Mettler Toledo
BD Biosciences
BD Biosciences