political correctness in biology?

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 15 14:02:52 CDT 1999

    That's a great example, and prokaryotic diversity is definitely still
very, very poorly known.  That's what I love about it.
    However, this investigator's amusement with eukaryotic kingdoms is a bit
self-delusional.  Notice that he is equating "real" biodiversity with the
diversity of rRNA sequences.  It's a very important gene, but a single small
gene nevertheless.  Talk about the perils of one character classifications,
the three domains take the cake.
     The rRNA sequences of Metazoans have changed very little (by
comparison) in the last 600 million years, but with all the revolutionary
changes in other genes (and creation of new genes), animals have
biodiversified from choanoflagellates and primitive sponges to millions of
morphologically and behaviorally complex species (including us and mites and
insects and dinosaurs and snails, etc.).
     The old morphological yardstick of biodiversity was certainly myopic in
its own way, but swinging the pendulum completely the other way (rRNA
yardstick) is just replacing one myopic viewpoint with a different one.  I
love that rRNA yardstick, but I try to keep from overexaggerating its
importance in measuring "real" biodiversity.
                    ---------Ken Kinman

>From: "Barry M. OConnor" <bmoc at UMICH.EDU>
>Reply-To: "Barry M. OConnor" <bmoc at UMICH.EDU>
>Subject: Re: political correctness in biology?
>Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 14:43:16 -0400
>I recently attended a workshop where one of the participants was a
>prokaryote systematist.  As we were discussing biodiversity, he briefly
>noted that using nucleic acid probes on a single soil sample, he had
>amplified 12 sequences (among others) that were more different from each
>other than were all other known sequences (prokaryote & eukaryote).  This
>suggests that there's still a heck of a lot of prokaryotic diversity out
>there that we are unaware of - the investigator found the notion of
>eukaryotic "kingdoms" amusing in the context of "real" biodiversity.
>         And I thought we didn't know much about mites!
>So many mites, so little time!
>Barry M. OConnor                phone: (734) 763-4354
>Museum of Zoology               FAX: (734) 763-4080
>University of Michigan          e-mail: bmoc at umich.edu
>Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079  USA

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