Which Revolution?

Hugh D. Wilson wilson at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Mon Oct 7 07:55:21 CDT 1996

Bing Bing ... start of round two :-)

I think progress toward understanding global biodiversity requires
definition of units that can be ordered into a nested, hierarchial
system.  So my answer is YES.

Its clear that we (systematists) cannot force biotic lineages into a
'periodic chart' and, despite claims of cladistic/molecular zealots,
tracking phylogenetic history remains an act of exploration.  We can,
however, use multiple sources of data to circumscribe genetically
distinct elements and thereby establish an 'identity' that can change
as data and circumscription limits change.  While it would be nice to
know the full phylogenetic history of these units or taxa, the 1st
priority - in my view - is to establish a taxonomic identity and
thereby be in a position to link ancillary data, such as the
geographic range, to taxonomic units at various levels.

This 'atomizing' or defining taxa is, from my point of view,
critical for future application of emerging technologies.
Informatics systems now under development or in place offer
potentials to display and develop biodiversity data that were not
available or, at least, not appreciated by the systematic community
a few years ago.  These systems *require* data and these data must
to linked or 'hooked' to biotic units or taxa.  If systematists are
unable to define taxonomic units at various levels - or unable to
accept 'tentative' definitions - then information relating to these
taxa cannot be manipulated or expressed by networked informatics.

So, it seems to me that a focus on defining biotic units is a
traditional systematic activity that prepares the discipline for the
future.  From this point of view, the microspecies of Rubus become a
workable problem only after the species of Rubus are in hand.

> My original question was more along the lines of:
> Is atomising the entirety of biodiversity the best way of reaching
> an understanding of it? Is it possible?
> This is relevant to charting all those areas of the threatened biome
> that we don't understand as much as it is to micro species of Rubus
> here in the Europe.
> Some one give me a yes or no answer!
> Roger.
> **********************
> Roger Hyam
> Royal Botanic Garden,
> Inverleith Row,
> Edinburgh, EH3 5LR
> Scotland, U.K.
> Tel. 031 552 7171
> Fax. 031 552 0382
> **********************

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at tamu.edu (409-845-3354)

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