The end of the line for taxonomists - or is it?

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Wed Jun 30 07:21:04 CDT 2004

One of the major problems is sample size and variation of sequences within
a taxon. This applies not only to species, but to genera, families etc. The
other point is that in order to barcode you have to define the limits of
species, genera etc. i.e. you need a good taxonomy to start with. See also
some general comments on reductionist approaches in:

At 12:00 30.6.2004 +1000, Felix Sperling wrote:
>Although I don't know of any articles that are exactly what you're
>asking for, here is one that is close:
>Funk, D.J. and K.E. Omland. 2003. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 23: 397-423.
>This is a large scale review of species-level monophyly in animal
>mitochondrial DNA. Based on many hundreds of studies, 23% of 2319
>assayed species show species-level paraphyly or polyphyly. This was
>quite widespread, with 44% of all genera having at least one species
>that were not monophyletic with respect to mtDNA.
>This does not mean that "barcoding" is useless, but rather that it is
>currently being seriously oversold. The most important message of the
>Funk and Omland review is that it is crucial to sample variation
>across the range of species, and to have credible sample sizes. This
>is exactly what I don't see the barcode enthusiasts doing. Setting up
>a complex barcoding scheme based on sampling just one or a handful of
>specimens from one locality (as is the case in the much-cited papers
>that supposedly establish the effectiveness of barcoding) or small
>subset of the species range is just asking for trouble later.
>I'm reminded of media stories reporting the latest cure for cancer.
>There is often something of value behind it, but it is a small,
>incremental advance, not the end of all our problems. Meanwhile, real
>harm can be done in diverting funding away from the careful taxonomic
>work that builds the foundation for us all.
>Felix Sperling
>>Yes.  Nevertheless, because some end-users of taxonomy are likely to
>>buy into the scheme (perhaps even eventually writing it in as a
>>requirement for grants and contracts), we need a strong statement in
>>print concerning its unreliability:  a cogently stated,
>>not-too-long, article, preferably multi-authored, in a journal with
>>good "street cred," that we taxonomists could show our clients when
>>the barcode bugbear arises.  Does anything like this exist at
>>present?  Even a short bibliography of existing papers that
>>demonstrate Doug's point (with salient quotes provided) would be
>>Barry Roth

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