$pecie$ name$.

Stuart G. Poss sgposs at WHALE.ST.USM.EDU
Wed Feb 18 09:55:21 CST 1998

Luis Diego Gomez wrote:
> In my opinion, after 40 years in the taxasphere, the market for patronyms is
> basically zero.

I disagree.  It has not been there because, I believe, for good reason,
people have not seen a reason to develop the idea to make money.  Money
is just the common denominator of differing, often highly asymmetric
values.  What was the market for powertool sculptured gravestones in the
8th century?  This is now a small, but not inconsiderable market. It
just took time to develop the technology and the marketing.  Has anyone
really seriously tried to develop a market?  If people can be talked
into buying pet rocks, it wouldn't take long if the required motivation
and opportunity presented itself.  That this discussion is taking place
at all in this context, suggests to me that "market forces" may now be
in flux.  Some very good arguments can and have been made for raising
such money to do taxonomy necessary to address the biodiversity crisis.
However, I don't think the taxonomic community should go down this road,
because I think it would work against maintaining nomenclatural
> I sat through a lecture by a revered conservation biologist, much acclaimed
> and awarded, who literally said: "we do not need taxonomy. What we need is
> to save the little bits that remain. A taxonomist is a thing of the past"
> much to the chagrin of many of us present.

While one can hardly quibble that the salaries of all those taxonomists
(and conservationists, college professors and research biologists, not
to mention insurance salesmen) could purchase a lot of critical habitat,
rather than to express chagrin, it might have been more appropriate to
point out that without taxonomy there is neither a scientific basis for
establishing just what the "little bits" are, nor a reasoned basis for
establishing the probability that any particular species will remain
protected by any particular conservation method.  Without taxonomy there
is no scientific basis to establish how much critical habitat needs to
be conserved to decrease the probability of extinction to some baseline
level that confronts all taxa in the absence of man's influence.

There remains a most unfortunate and poorly informed vision in the minds
of many scientists and non-scientists of what modern taxonomy is all
about and its relationship to systematic and evolutionary biology.  I
think it may come from a lack of appreciation for the complexity and
importance of biological nomenclature and a much hackneyed stereotype
about scientists cloistered, "away from reality" in "ivory towers" and
hunched over microscopes, which virtually all taxonomists do for one
reason or another.  Whatever the misconception, I would urge colleagues
to take the responsibility to dispell them at every opportunity.
Taxonomy is alive, vibrant, and an essential aspect of conservation
biology.  I would like to think all practicing taxonomists are too.
Certainly, we need to make it so.

I for one would surely like to know who this "revered conservation
biologist" is and precisely in what context was this quote made.  In my
opinion a public education may be in order, since such an impresssion
about taxonomy is as deadly to a scientifically-based conservation
biology as it is to taxonomy.  Perhaps he or she could be invited to
defend and expound on this position in more detail here on TAXACOM.

Stuart Poss

Stuart G. Poss                       E-mail: sgposs at whale.st.usm.edu
Senior Research Scientist & Curator  Tel: (228)872-4238
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory       FAX: (228)872-4204
P.O. Box 7000                        703 East Beach Blvd.
Ocean Springs, MS  39566-7000

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