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Tales of the unexpected: research discoveries that occurred by accident

van Emden, H. F. (2015) Tales of the unexpected: research discoveries that occurred by accident. Acta Societatis Zoologicae Bohemicae, 79. pp. 51-64. ISSN 1211-376X

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Abstract/Summary

Data from four experimental research projects are presented which have in common that unexpected results caused a change in direction of the research. A plant growth accelerator caused the appearance of white black bean aphids, a synthetic pyrethroid suspected of enhancing aphid reproduction proved to enhance plant growth, a chance conversation with a colleague initiated a search for fungal DNA in aphids, and the accidental invasion of aphid cultures by a parasitoid reversed the aphid population ranking of two Brussels sprout cultivars. This last result led to a whole series of studies on the plant odour preferences of emerging parasitoids which in turn revealed the unexpected phenomenon that chemical cues to the maternal host plant are left with the eggs at oviposition. It is pointed out that, too often, researchers fail to follow up unexpected results because they resist accepting flaws in their hypotheses; also that current application criteria for research funding make it hard to accommodate unexpected findings.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:43160
Publisher:Czech Zoological Society

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