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

Amelie H. Scheltema ascheltema at WHOI.EDU
Wed Jul 25 17:19:55 CDT 2001

So, just voucher the specimens and let some other person have to describe them?
Thanks a bundle!

Amélie H. Scheltema
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Department of Biology, MS #34
Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
Tel.: +1-508-289-2337
FAX: +1-508-457-2134
ascheltema at whoi.edu

"r.flowers" 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?
> No.  Your colleague will have a very nice tree which will be absolutely
> useless to anyone trying to work with the actual organisms.  Kind of
> reminds me of Francis Fitzgerald's description of the American Command in
> Vietnam, "..revolving on it's own axis with no exit into reality."
>   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.
> However premature and incomplete the resulting trees may be.  An interesting
> socio-political investigation would be how NSF went from =
> forward-looking funder of biodiversity workshops in the early 1990=B4s to
> the dogmatic pusher of "cladocule-isim" of the present day.
>  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?
> Well, you can also try talking to the thousands of scientists, citizen
> activists and just plain interested folks all over the Third World who
> are vitally interested in the biodiversity of their countries, and =
> extremely curious to know what is living around them, what their names are,
> and what their life histories are.  And yes, their curiosity extends to
> mites.  I just came back from several days at a remote field station in
> western Ecuador.  I found an almost inexhaustable curiosity about the local
> insects and invertebrates-including-mites from local farmers, their
> children, conservation workers, and visiting agricultural scientists.
> Oddly, nobody seemed particularly interested in what the insect=B4s
> cladograms or gene sequences looked like.
> 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.
> In other words, "knowing more and more about less and less."
> Oh, well ...
> Thanks for bringing up the issue and framing it so well.
> Wills Flowers
> Quito, Ecuador
> rflowers at mail.istal.com

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