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

r.flowers r.flowers at FAMU.EDU
Tue Jul 31 15:08:23 CDT 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Amelie H. Scheltema
To: r.flowers
Sent: 7/25/01 5:19 PM
Subject: Re: Species Enumeration (Biodiversity) or Phylogenetic Relationship
(Science) ==> Another problem

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

You apparently have me confused with someone else... not unexpected, since I
now see that the dysfuncional Microserf product I currently have to use did
not distinguish my comments from the original posting.  To ensure that the
right people get blamed for the right things, I am editing the post below
with brackets around the parts that I wrote.

Thanks a bundle!

You're welcome!

Wills Fllowers

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
> the lowest level possible (most of the species would presumably be
> undescribed), obtain the relevant sequences, do the analysis and
> Voucher specimens of  the organisms sequenced would be deposited, but
> species would not be described.  My question is, is this becoming
> 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
 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
> 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
> 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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