Usage of common names
Mon Jun 5 09:53:07 CDT 1995
I have been working on the Gap Analysis project of Arkansas which
mandates a unique predictive model for all the terrestrial vertebrates that
reside in the state. Being the only one working on these models, I have been
able to intimately learn about the similarities and differences in the very
different taxas of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
I agree with Robin in that common bird names are very stable (at least
at the present time) due to the AOU and other influences, chief being the
enormous popularity of birding. I think that this high level of interest
amoung professionals and ameaturs has driven bird names to be stable (except
for the vernacular versions). I think another reason that the common names are
fairly stable is because the scientific names have been stable for quite a
while (again except for sporadic shifts).
My experience with mammals is similar (however, because there are not
that many mammal species, and most of those are warm fuzzy creatures, they have
been studied fairly widely).
However, reptiles and amphibians have presented me with quite a
challange. The scientific names of many reptiles and amphibians have changed
many times over the years, including genera changes. Many changes are disputed,
and many relationships are just not known. This leads to confusion over common
names as well. I think the source of confusion is that there are not many
researchers doing taxonomy on reptiles and amphibians.
I am not really sure about plants, but I suspect that this could be the
root of a very similar problem. I also think that the amount of species in the
taxa has a direct affect on the amount of knowledge known about the inter-
relationships of the group. There are a heck of a lot of plants (and insects)
out there, and while alot is known about the inter-relationships, alot is not
known. There are numerically a lot less mammal and bird species to figure out
all the relationships.
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