What are we going to do about this?

Alan Harvey aharvey at AMNH.ORG
Wed Oct 23 16:13:30 CDT 1996

John Shuey provides a, er, remarkable perspective. TNC is not interested in
accurate species determinations, nor species lists, nor basic ecological
information about species on the species lists, each of which builds upon
the previous, but in detailed information about the relative
vulnerabilities of the various species, which is surely a synthesis of a
*diverse* array of information in addition to all of the above. And yet all
of these various types of information can never be MORE reliable than the
underlying alpha taxonomy!!! And yet, John writes "Of taxonomic note, many
of the cave species are undescribed.  This really doesn't bother me too
much.  I can protect a species with or without a name, as long as it has
enough underlying taxonomy to get us to the morpho-species stage." But the
main job of the taxonomist is to determine the limits of species, not to
give them names (this is a trivial task). It sounds like he's expressing
his comfort with "manuscript names," in which someone has already
identified a new taxon but hasn't gotten around to publishing it. But this
is hardly the typical situation with respect to most, understudied, taxa.

Every so often, a paper appears that undermines the credibility of a
previous, even "classic" study, by pointing out that the taxonomy of the
earlier work's study organism(s) was incorrect. These papers do not appear
enough. Perhaps taxonomists need to more frequently and aggressively
illustrate that _any_ study that depends on accurately identified subjects
(and which do not?) is of questionable utility without an adequate
taxonomic background.



Alan W. Harvey (aharvey at amnh.org)
Assistant Curator of Invertebrates
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5638; fax (212) 769-5783

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