reliability of identifications

Jerry Bricker lcjbrick at ANTELOPE.WCC.EDU
Wed Oct 23 12:58:24 CDT 1996

One and all:

The recent thread regarding the sorry state of taxonomic training and
expertise among consultants, etc. sent me digging for a paper published in
last November's BioScience by Simpson and Cracraft.  They used the term
"taxonomic impediment" to describe the results of the ongoing neglect of
taxomomy and systematics by the larger biological community.  I would argue
that hammering the issue of the taxonomic impediment to the public and to
educational, governmental, and industry policy makers is the only we to
reverse recent losses of support.  Give those groups a solid catch phrase
and maybe, just maybe,  there might be a change of attitude.

In the same issue of BioScience Savage penned the article "Systematics and
the Biodiversity Crisis."  I often use the figures he cites on viruses
(5000 described species, as many as 500,000 total species) to make the
point that systematics is critical to all other fields of study.  After
all, if we only have a basic understanding of 1% of the species in a group
is it any wonder that organisms like HIV can cause so much destruction?  We
know nothing about the critters!  It may be a bit heavy handed to use such
examples but it sure makes gets one's attention and illustrates the need
for taxonomic studies.


Jerry Bricker
Department of Biology
Laramie County Community College
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82007-3299
Phone: (307) 778-1139
Fax: (307) 778-1395
e-mail: lcjbrick at

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