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

Dr. Neil Snow nsnow at BENTLEY.UNCO.EDU
Thu Jul 19 10:10:06 CDT 2001

Funny thing though, I doubt the ecologists and many others who rely on the names
provided by taxonomists would think it is a waste of money for taxonomists to
describe new species and document they occur in detail.  The "shelf life" of
good descriptive taxonomic work needs no defense.

christian thompson wrote:

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

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