Species Enumeration (Biodiversity) or Phylogenetic Relationship (Science) ==> Another problem

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Thu Jul 19 11:59:56 CDT 2001

>>> "Barry M. OConnor" <bmoc at UMICH.EDU> 07/19 2:36 PM >>>

A colleague working on higher level phylogenetic studies involving a very
diverse, but taxonomically poorly
studied group.  His proposed methodology is to collect as many taxa as are
available, identify them to the lowest level possible (most of the species
would presumably be undescribed), obtain the
relevant sequences, do the analysis and publish.  Voucher specimens of the
organisms sequenced would be deposited, but the species would not be
described.  My question is, is this becoming common practice, and if so,
are we really able to communicate without names?  My colleague's rationale
was that if he had to describe all the new species, he would never get the
phylogenetic work done.

====================== Sorry, Barry, but that is another sad issue

While E. O. Wilson and others argue for the enumeration of species, to
complete the Global Biodiversity Map, etc., much of Systematics today seems
to say that goal is a waste of time and money, which should be and is being
better spent on discovering the "Tree of Life"   And it seems if you want
money from NSF, etc., then phylogenetic relationship are what you should be
doing. So, your colleague is with the majority here.

And many have said: Names are for communication, but for the vast majority
of those little insignificant invertebrates where is the need to communicate
as nothing is known of them and they are of no known importance, etc. So,
for example, why was time and resources on naming mites that only you are
interested in? So, you can talk to yourself?

This reflect another division of our science; that between those who work
on groups whose species have been largely enumerated (the vertebrates,
higher flowering plants, etc.) and those who work on groups whose species
are hardly known (insects, fungi, worms, etc.). Unfortunately, it is the
former who seem to define what "science" is and set the priorities.

Oh, well ...


F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at sel.barc.usda.gov
visit our Diptera site at www.diptera.org

More information about the Taxacom mailing list