Confidence and keys

Robert Raven R.Raven at MAILBOX.UQ.OZ.AU
Wed Jun 14 17:30:15 CDT 1995

As a taxonomists who works hard on keys, I was rather "hurt" when a
fellow taxonomist observed that keys are actually written for the benefit
of the writer, not the user. A careful introspection suggested this may
be quite true. A lot of the terms I use in keys derive from my knowledge
of the group. OK, I might not be quantifying these well enough but some
are fairly resistant to such analyses. So if I use the couplet
tibia incrassate I am drawing on my understanding for the genus of what
is normal. People who have one specimen often don't have that background
and hence the keys are limited. I am NOT advocating doing away with them,
after all I couldn't quickly identify something myself but we have to
remember the wealth of knowledge was with those who wrote the keys.
Robert J Raven, Museum Scientist (Arachnology)
Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Australia

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