Morphotyping

Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D. mivie at MONTANA.EDU
Wed May 21 09:31:09 CDT 1997


I think there are too many people out there hiding in museums, who think
that the goals and values of our community are universal and preeminent.

For many land management decisions, it would be a stupid idea to wait
until the systematists got their act together and had everything
properly named.  I will give an example.

I am a beetle systematist who also does inventory and alphataxonomic
work (actually precious little else), so I understand the need for
people who can identify things.  A couple years ago, some colleagues
came to me and asked if I could design a study to compare impacts of
chemical and fungal pesticides on non-target species of insects in
Madagascar.  Seems that international aid organizations had been
spraying up to 600,000 hectares of wild lands in Madagascar with
organochlorines for grasshopper control!


So, we gave them a budget, which they funded to the penny, and we went
off and did the study.  Now, it turns out that we were in a practically
unstudied part of south-central Madagascar, and even though the project
paid for a full set of Fauna d'Madagascar and other literature, we
couldn't name MOST of the morphospecies.  Even the ants, which have been
under study at the MCZ for years, were mostly unnamed.

So we used morphospecies and temporary taxonomy, vouchered them, and
prepared the manuscript on impacts.  This report is going to have a
great deal to say about how things are done in grasshopper control over
the next few years, to the benefit of innumerable species of animals
(and maybe even indirectly on plants).  How can any of us argue that we
should have waited until all the species could be named properly?  It
simply isn't important to the question at hand!

Remember, they were not going to simply stop spraying and allow
thousands of people to starve.  Good idea, but not possible.  The best
alternative was required and only through morphospecies-level work could
that be determined in a time-effective manner.

Yes, the project required competent systematists to conduct it.  Yes,
there will be errors in the morphospecies concepts.  Yes, it would be
nice to have been able to use manuals, but GET REAL!

********************************************************


Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.          |
Associate Professor and Curator |   Us   Them    Other
Department of Entomology        |    \     /      /
Montana State University        |     \   /      /
Bozeman, MT 59717-3020          |      \ /      /
USA                             |       \      /
                                |        \    /
Phone: (406) 994-4610           |         \  /
FAX:   (406) 994-6029           |          \/
                                |
e-mail: mivie at montana.edu       |  "We have more in common
                                |      than we think"

<http://virgin.msu.montana.edu/People/miviehm.html>




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