naming and types

James Lyons-Weiler weiler at ERS.UNR.EDU
Sat Nov 9 06:56:37 CST 1996

"JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE" <josephl at AZTEC.ASU.EDU> wrote:

Genera and species have their historical
origins in European folk taxonomy, and were well-established
concepts long before Darwin or even Linnaeus.

        Numerous human societies had ranks of similar scale before
        the Europeans thought it would be a good idea to "standardize"
        the world's lexicon.

I oppose the idea of assigning separate names to two
populations based solely on molecular data with no correlating
morphological data at all. I don't care whether the two are
genetically compatible or not. If you can't tell the difference
without sophisticated techniques, only a specialist in that
particular group would want to hear about it.

        This type of statement leads to charges that taxonomy is
        somehow different from the rest of the biological sciences,
        in particular that taxonomy is for taxonomists and therefore
        they all belong is the bowels of a building in the those
        dark and dusty museum and herbaria.  You're killing yourself.

        Here is a short list of groups that might be interested in the
        fact that there are cryptic species around:

        1. Conservation Biologists - currently struggling with the
           problem of what defines a distinctive taxon, they are
           giving serious thought to evolutionary significant
           units (Moritz; see also Waples).  If they treat species A
           thinking it will respond like species B, but don't
           know that they are dealing with 2 species, they risk
           causing harm.

        2. Ecologists - Some ecologists are still in the business of
           trying explain the distribution and abundance of species.
           If their models tell them that a community will "behave"
           in a particular fashion, even a single cryptic species can
           cause discord between empirical work and theory.

           Even ecologists who don't care too much about broad questions
           could express immense interest.  If they are sympatric, how
           two (or more!) cryptic species coexist?  How are they
           partitioning the resources?

        3. Pharmaceutical types - Each unique species represents
           a unique (uncontrolled) genetic experiment. A bit applied,
           but a group nonetheless.

        4. Evolutionary Biologists - They are always trying to catch
           speciation in action.  Cryptic species are cool!

        5. Morphologists (I hate to use such broad terms; taxonomists
           who apply morphological data, in my opinion, cannot be
           so easily lumped as split).  Molecular data can prompt a search
           for new and previously thought downweighted morphological
           diagnostic characteristics.

Sorry, Joe.  I've got all the pins I need!

James Lyons-Weiler


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