BSC, etc.

Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU
Wed Nov 12 21:44:16 CST 2003

As a fellow insect taxonomist, I sympathise with Doug Yanega, and daily face the same problems. I try to detect, from the attributes of flies on pins, the "joints in Nature" where we can carve out what we call (or used to call) "species". The molecular revolution has revealed modes of variation invisible under our microscopes. We daily see how this can revise our estimates of just where those "joints" can be more reliably located; and daily we realise that it will not be in our time (if ever) that these techniques can be applied in everyday taxonomy. I (to coin a phrase) have a dream: a chip coated with the appropriate DNA, or RNA, or whatever, that ones holds against the specimen and says "Ah, yes. Another Ayus Beus"; and off goes another satisfied customer. I try not to envision the awful potentialities of convergence in the molecular paradise.

I guess we must just soldier on, using what the granting agencies provide; and try to remember that what we call a species in one area of taxonomy may have a fairly slight resemblance to the other chap's. Our taxonomic (evolutionary) theories, dammit, are robust enough to recognise and make necessary allowance for all this. 

Don Colless,
Div of Entomology, CSIRO,
GPO Box 1700,
Canberra. 2601.
Email: don.colless at
Tuz li munz est miens envirun 

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