naming and types

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Sat Nov 9 13:15:08 CST 1996

On Sat, 9 Nov 1996, James Lyons-Weiler wrote:

> "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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Plants are a lot like people:  There are probably not two genetically
identical individuals, with the exception of clones.  Somewhere in this
morass of individuality we need to find a classification system that
serves the useful purpose of reference to a larger group of "similar"
individuals.  With the advent of molecular methods of analysis, especially
sequence analysis, we have open to us the possibility of distinguishing
between each and every individual.  Ascribing an official, named taxonomic
status to each molecular variation would be the ultimate in "splitting"
and would serve no useful purpose.  One of the ultimate goals of
fabricating a classification system is to provide a method for refering to
assemblages of taxa that share a significant number of characteristics.
Even though we have "powerful" tools to discover and assess shared
characteristics, the ultimate taxonomic decision is still somewhat
F.J. Peabody

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