For some researchers, this story should have been titled: Crap happens. Here:
While good news for snail lovers and conservationists, the animal’s rediscovery reignited a debate about the validity of Gerlach’s study. As early as 2007, when Gerlach published his report linking the snail’s extinction with climate change, biologist Clive Hambler of the University of Oxford and his colleagues submitted a comment to Biology Letters pointing to data collection and analysis errors and requesting that the study be retracted. Hambler’s comment was rejected for publication at the time; now, in statements to media outlets, Hambler has once again voiced his concerns about the study and called for a retraction. And in an e-mail to The Scientist, his frustration is clear, as he cites the “catastrophic failure of the peer review and editorial process.”
Specifically, Hambler and his colleagues argue that the Gerlach study provided few details of the survey method used, missed some recorded observations of the species, and used climate change data that amplified the trend of lower rainfall. In addition, because the surveys only sampled a small portion of the largely inaccessible islands, said Hambler, who argued with his coauthors in 2007 that more extensive searches would find the species—as proved to be the case this August. “I argue any one of [these errors] should be grounds for retraction,” Hambler told The Scientist.
The Scientist is standing by its story. The snail is crawling around doing whatever. Some call these types of life forms “Lazarus species,” animals we thought were extinct. (One third apparently turn up again.) Perhaps the tricky part is determining how many of them were “species” in the first place, in the sense that they couldn’t mate with very similar life forms, and then go back to mating with each other later. Follow UD News at Twitter!