"(morpho)" species and diversity studies

Hugh Wilson wilson at BIO.TAMU.EDU
Thu Jan 7 07:48:49 CST 1999

Speaking of diversity studies, we are working with the Biota of Nortn
American Program to devise methods that allow relative biotic
diversity to be expressed on the web.  The prototype system at:


includes a 'diversity mapping' feature that allows the user to
generate color-coded 'summary' diversity maps that - in essence -
combine state-level distributions of all vascular plant taxa
(species/infraspecific groups) included (BONAP checklist) within the
higher-level taxon (family/genus ususally) selected.

Aside from an overview of relative diversity, this type of merger
provides a quick check for the data which, in this case, is derived
from a BONAP survey of published floras, atlases, etc.  While using
this system to prepare a family-level overview for the Colorado
Native Plant Society (Chenopodiaceae), I discovered that there are no
records for the genus Atriplex in Arkansas or Tennessee (data limited
to U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).  I am *sure*
that representatives of this genus are present in these states but
John Kartesz points out that Atriplex records are not present in his
data sources, including the most recent Flora of Arkansas.

Since this mail list often works to tap into a distributed resource
of botanical expertise and data, I am wondering if subscribed
herbarium curators have 'state record' specimens of this genus from
either Arkansas or Tennessee in their collections?

Also, to follow this thread, this prototype system also allows
diversity mapping of major groups (gymnosperms, ferns, monocots,
dicots), flowering plant subclasses (Cronquist), and orders (see url
structures under 'concept'), an element that will soon be integrated
into the system as a user 'selectable' feature.  Given the discussion
of ranks vs. relality and 'obsolete' classification systems, is this
a useful addition?

On  6 Jan 99 at 22:08, Peter Rauch <anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU>

> Date:          Wed, 6 Jan 1999 22:08:57 -0800
> Reply-to:      Peter Rauch <anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU>
> From:          Peter Rauch <anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU>
> Subject:       Re: "(morpho)" species?
> To:            Multiple recipients of list TAXACOM

> On Wed, 6 Jan 1999, Doug Yanega wrote:
> > ... from an
> > entomologist's perspective, 99.99% of the time we don't *know* which
> > entities are genuinely species, so we define them based on morphology.
> > I put "morpho" in parentheses to avoid getting into "species definition"
> > arguments, ...
> >
> > Is that what you had in mind? ...
> Yup. Your explanation clarifies it for me.
> I suppose the one point further to make is that the dilemma of not being
> able to identify those "real" species (as you say, whatever definition
> that entails), when doing the biodiversity assessments, and having to
> "settle for" morphospecies, leads to weaknesses in the diversity
> assessments (but, are those weaknesses of the same consequence as the
> one you raised for diversity studies which use higher level
> categories...?  I'd suspect not, but as long as we're critiquing
> diversity studies...). I also suppose that a good diversity study will
> be careful and wise to define the study goal and "diversity" in such a
> way as to make the study "right", no matter what are being used as the
> objects of interest; is that heresy, or what!  :>)
> Thanks
> Peter

Hugh D. Wilson
Texas A&M University - Biology
h-wilson at tamu.edu (409-845-3354)

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