plant collecting

Rod Seppelt rod_sep at ANTDIV.GOV.AU
Wed Oct 13 05:48:10 CDT 1999

In response to Adolf Ceska's posting regarding David Wagner's 1 in 20
While I applaud the idea in theory, I wonder how widespread is the
acceptance of field notes and photographs/drawings in the absence of a
In many instances there will remain the doubt - now or in the future - as
to whether or not it really was what it appears to be from the
Years ago I parted company with an Ornithological Association in Australia
because of two issues.  I spotted two birds (introduced to Australia) and
reported the instance at a meeting.  The record was not accepted/believed
at the time and I was told that the best way to be sure was to shoot the
birds and have the skins identified.  The second instance involved the
sighting of a small vagrant wader, a Little Whimbrel, by two of the most
respected birdos in the country.  There were two skins in the Museum (the
only two previous sightings) and they wanted the third.  Fortunately the
bird escaped being blasted with shot gun pellets and lived to fly another
Now, in both cases we have 2 individuals or 1 (with 2 previously shot
specimens).  In the latter case I was staggered at the time (and still am)
that the surety of the field ID by the two experts was not enough to count
as a record.
This may be a bit off the track but it served to illustrate the fact that
something in the hand is at least a positive record.
If one considers lichens (or other small plants - not to mention animals) -
so many species in some large genera look the same (how do you determine
chemospecies without doing the chemistry); environment may also have a
marked effect on morphology (witness the plethora of "new species"
described in the past from Antarctica).
While I do not believe in the scientific license to take philosophy, there
is a real dilemma with "rare" records.
Rod Seppelt

Dr. Rodney D. Seppelt
Principal Research Scientist
Australian Antarctic Division
Channel Highway
Kingston 7050, Tasmania, Australia

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