The world-renowned biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson received the honor of having a new species of antbird named after him in recognition of his lifetime contribution to scientific discovery and conservation. Dr. Wilson is a myrmecologist, an entomologist who studies ants, and is known as the “father of biodiversity” for being the first scientist to publish the term in 1988. The new antbird species named after him, Myrmoderus eowilsoni, will be described in the scientific journal The Auk this week.
“The idea of [having] a bird named after you is right up there with maybe the Nobel [Prize], because it’s such a rarity to have a true new species discovered, and I do take it as a great personal honor,” said Dr. Wilson.
Myrmoderus eowilsoni was discovered in northern Peru by Josh Beck during a 2016 birding expedition. As the main author of the description co-written by a team of scientists, Beck decided to name the new antbird species in honor of Dr. Wilson after discussing the possibility with Rainforest Trust President and distinguished ornithologist Dr. Robert Ridgely.
“As Dr. Wilson and I were discussing the possibility of his joining Rainforest Trust’s Board of Directors, it occurred to me that he didn’t have anything other than several ant species named after him,” said Dr. Ridgely. “This for a pre-eminent scientist so highly regarded for his insights on biodiversity! Josh and I agreed this was the perfect, and long overdue, opportunity to name a vertebrate species after him. Even better, it was an antbird!”
Although officially retired, Dr. Wilson remains very active in the conservation sector. He is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University and this fall joined the Board of Directors of Rainforest Trust.
“Dr. Wilson is widely considered to be the most esteemed conservation biologist alive, and Rainforest Trust shares a common vision with him of protecting the most important areas in the world for rare species and biodiversity generally,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “We are excited to be working toward the protection of forest habitat in Peru for the new antbird named after Dr. Wilson.”
Explaining why he supports Rainforest Trust, Dr. Wilson stated,
“[Rainforest Trust] finds out where the species are, they learn which ones and ensembles that make up the ecosystem are in greatest danger and then they find the money to save them in perpetuity. That’s the way to do things.”