Morpho-typing & Re: ATBI "Self-Destructs"

Doug Yanega dyanega at MONO.ICB.UFMG.BR
Wed May 21 09:20:30 CDT 1997


Murray Fletcher wrote:

>It would
>be better to have validly published species names confirmed by specialist
>taxonomists but as this "luxury" is not available in the time available
>for their work they have developed methodologies that allow them to
>achieve their immediate objectives which, after all, is what they are
>being paid for. As long as voucher samples of all the morphospecies are
>lodged with an appropriate institution, the "proper" systematics CAN come
>later.

and Stuart Poss wrote:

>If the "morphotypes" are correctly labeled and vouchered, they can at
>some point be made useful to the scientific community by correctly
>referencing the appropriate species name, since we hardly require each
>study to establish a new nomenclatural system.

Let me ask this question of both of you: if the studies which gather and
sort all this material do not include money to do "proper" systematics (in
this case, putting on species names), then WHERE do you imagine this money
is going to come from? Further, if some taxonomist somewhere *does* get
money to do a genus-level revision of something which happens to be
included in your massive stockpile of morpho-types, how on earth are they
supposed to KNOW that your "Diptera 19" through "Diptera 37" are members of
the genus in question, and therefore know to borrow the material? The
likelihood of someone ever sitting down and working up the material from a
study like this is very, very slim unless there is some source of funding
FOR THAT PROJECT which continues beyond the scope of the original survey
work.
        I have first-hand experience with a faunistic project that was
nearly *ideal* in that it focused on survey of ONE well-known taxon (bees),
and had the cooperation of virtually everyone familiar with the bees of the
area surveyed. We *still* ended up with morpho-species, the grant money ran
out, and now there are thousands of specimens that may never be identified,
since they are in genera for which there are no living experts (or for
which the living experts don't have the time and money to work on). This is
a case where the people who may eventually need to see this material KNOW
it exists, and know where to get it - how much worse, then, is a situation
where essentially no one knows about the material (or where they know
*about* it, but don't know what it actually is, and that they might want to
see it, because the level of ID was only to morpho-type)? If you settle for
morpho-types, then that's probably all you are EVER going to get.
        Think of it this way: if faunistic studies do not include money for
taxonomists, if ecological studies do not include money for taxonomists,
and if much of the funding for systematics is going to people who do not do
taxonomy, then WHO is ever going to identify all this material? We are
losing taxonomists faster than we are hiring them, and if people decide
"Well, the taxonomy can be done later", then that is ONLY going to make
matters worse. It's called "Supply and Demand". If no one *DEMANDS*
taxonomists, then we won't have any supply. I can't be the only person here
who thinks this "do the taxonomy later" mentality is a *very* bad thing.

Sincerely,

Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-448-1223, fax: 031-44-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
                  http://www.icb.ufmg.br/~dyanega/
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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