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Public urged to name Britainís forgotten wildlife

Thursday 16th June 2011

Marine creatures stand out as Natural England and The Guardian launch a public competition to rescue unnamed British wildlife from obscurity

Now in its second year, the 'Name a species' competition, run by Natural England and The Guardian, was launched on Saturday 11 June 2011 with the aim of finding a common name for 10 unknown, but amazing, British species. Five of the 10 unnamed species are marine creatures.

A host of seemingly forgotten species exist in Britain and many are disappearing fast. Known to just a few scientists and identified only by Latin names, they lack the common touch and their decline risks going unnoticed as a result. The competition aims to rescue Britain's unnamed species from obscurity by asking the public to suggest memorable common names.

Dr Pete Brotherton, Head of Biodiversity at Natural England said: "There is a wonderful array of fascinating creatures in this year's competition, from sea spiders and sea squirts, recently discovered mushrooms and rare hoverflies. Giving English names to these species will help give them a popular identity they are crying out for."

The five marine creatures featuring in the competition's list of 10 unnamed species are:

  • Coryphella browni - a recycling sea slug
  • Nymphon gracile - an undersea spider with a straw
  • Phallusia mammillata - Britain's largest sea squirt
  • Sagartiogeton laceratus - a many tentacled anemone
  • Ophiura albida - a snaky star in the sand

Common names have been given to species throughout history. Frequently colourful and highly descriptive, these names have often been the best way for the public to become familiar with the species' characteristics and behaviour.

Dr Pete Brotherton said: "Scientific study needs the precision and discipline of Latin names, but it's difficult to fire the imagination with a name like Pachycerianthus multiplacatus - 'fireworks anemone' is much more exciting. There are some amazing forgotten gems in this competition - we want to remind people of the importance of all species, because each of them has a role to play in sustaining the health of the ecosystems upon which we depend."

The first Natural England/Guardian 'Name a species' competition was inspired by the environment writer George Monbiot. Adam Vaughan, editor of , said: "We were overwhelmed by more than 3,000 entries in the competition's first year, which was a testimony to the British public's love of nature. Governments are waking up to biodiversity loss as a serious issue - last year they agreed new targets for protecting wildlife and habitats by the end of the decade. But we need the public to sustain the pressure, and giving species colourful and memorable names is a vital step in protecting them."

Anyone can enter the competition by visiting the Guardian's web site:

The closing date and time of the competition is 12 noon on 25 June 2011. Our expert panel will judge the entries, and the winning names will be announced in a special Guardian feature on 16 July 2011.

Last year the overall winning name was the Queen's Executioner, a type of beetle that feeds on the larvae of other beetles and is found only in Windsor Great Park. Other winning names included the sea piglet and witches' whiskers.

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