Credit: Mark Gurney

One of zoology's highest honours may now, it seems, be purchased on eBay (see For a few thousand dollars, you are offered the privilege of naming a 'small, rare' species. A species name will last forever, says the vendor — even as taxonomists themselves struggle to survive.

Taxonomists invest months confirming that a specimen is new to science. They sift through obscure literature — often in a different language and lamentably illustrated. More months are spent on the species' description, which must be accurate enough to enable future taxonomists (should they survive the sixth mass extinction) to confirm that their 'new' species is different. Eventually, they publish their work in a systematics journal with an impact factor typically below 2 — even when the species is a previously undescribed mammal (the olinguito Bassaricyon neblina, pictured; see K. M. Helgen et al. ZooKeys 324, 1–83; 2013).

These low impact factors make it hard for taxonomists to land positions in academia, and job opportunities in museums are sparse. Selling perpetuity on eBay is starting to look like an attractive alternative.