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

Barry M. OConnor bmoc at UMICH.EDU
Thu Jul 19 12:33:07 CDT 2001

At 11:59 AM -0400 7/19/01, christian thompson wrote:

 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.

This is certainly true - my colleague did get funded for his project, and
that is a good thing.
>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?

There actually may be more than one or two of us out there right now, but
we also have to communicate with future generations.  I asked my colleague
whether a compromise would be to return to the style of earlier generations
of taxonomists; i.e. "Acarus thompsoni, n. sp. A white mite 0.56mm long,
0.33 mm wide; like Acarus oconnori but slightly longer; found in my
garden."  This diagnosis is enough to satisfy the code, and now instead of
a voucher specimen for the sequence, you have a holotype.  Perhaps we're
even approaching the day when the diagnostic characters will be the
sequences themselves.  Anyone interested now knows that this entity exists
and has to deal with it in revisions, databases, etc.  Terry Erwin has
taken this approach (admittedly with more complete diagnoses & figures) in
recent works on Neotropical beetles.

So many mites, so little time!
Barry M. OConnor
Professor & Curator             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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