Stuart G. Poss sgposs at WHALE.ST.USM.EDU
Tue May 20 16:42:40 CDT 1997

Una Smith wrote:
> The whole point of morpho-typing is that you do not attempt a systematic
> treatment nor publish until you and your colleagues have all seen each
> other's specimens and you have all agreed on delimitations, descriptions,
> and diagnoses for each morphotype.  So, formal taxonomic treatments come
> late in the work-flow on a project, but they are as sound as they can be,
> given the abundance of specimens and published comparative data at hand.

Irrespective of when or how in a sampling protocol the specimens are
identified, a critical issue in subsequent reference to the specimens is
the accuracy of the identification.  Failure to provide accurate
identifications, as well as identifications made verifiable through
retention of voucher materials renders subsequent statements of whatever
kind scientifically meaningless or, at best only partially useful, if
identifiable only to taxonomic ranks above species (or subspecies,
geographic variant, or variety in some contexts).

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.  If not properly labeled
and vouchered, the entire excerise is a waste of time and money and
should not be confused with scientific activity meriting public funding.
Which state of affairs is the case should typically be established prior
to publication, preferrably in consultation with a competant and
suitably remunerated taxonomist.

However, one must be aware that alpha taxonomy is elevated to a science
only when it can be regarded as an iterative process.  If at all
practical, one should save materials to be in a position to revaluate an
identification at some future date, since regardless of how thoroughly
or expertly a taxonomic analysis is made, the possibility however
remote, of undetected cryptic, but taxonomically important variation
always remains (not to mention the possibility of misidentification due
to taxonomic naivete, incompetance, or fraud).

Stuart G. Poss                       E-mail: sgposs at
Senior Ichthyologist & Curator       Tel: (601)872-4238
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory       FAX: (601)872-4204
P.O. Box 7000
Ocean Springs, MS  39566-7000

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