the future of taxonomic expertise

Stuart G. Poss Stuart.Poss at USM.EDU
Wed Feb 2 10:48:34 CST 2000

Good point.  The reverse would also benefit systematics, namely providing
intellectual encouragement and forums for molecular biologists to work
with us to grapple with difficult problems in systematics in the context
of previous work, as opposed to ignoring other frames of reference such as
information from morphology.

My own view is that the dichotomy between molecular biologists and
systematists is greatly exaggerated, since they both work on organisms,
albeit at different scales of reference and with different tools.  We
wouldn't think to classify systematists into those that use microscopes
and those that do not.  Why should we do so, when we are looking at
structure at a molecular level?  If there is a dichotomy it may be between
those who are comparative in their approach and those who are not.  I
think we need to encourage more unified theories of organismal evolution,
particularly since genes encode structure and structure constrains genes,
their organization, and their combination.  Systematists certainly don't
need to feel as though they have not contributed mightly toward such a
goal, simply because the powerful tools of molecular biology are
deservedly getting a lot of attention.  Perhaps working together we can
look at both sides of the coin to see if it is legal tender.

Una Smith wrote:

> I think this is a problem for our systematics community, not for the
> molecular biology folks.  Few systematists go to molbio conferences, or
> publish papers in molbio journals.  Systematists probably could do far
> more to explain what the outstanding problems are, in terms that fit a
> molbio frame of reference.
>         Una Smith               una.smith at
>         Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
>         Yale University
>         New Haven, CT  06520-8106

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