Taxonomic Concepts in the news

Karl Magnacca kmagnacca at WESLEYAN.EDU
Fri Feb 18 10:01:52 CST 2005

On 16 Feb 2005 at 8:59, David Remsen wrote:
> Did anyone see this CNN post a couple of weeks ago?
> The Preble's meadow jumping mouse, once seen as a costly impediment to
> development, is now viewed by the government as a critter that never
> really existed -- and is no longer in need of Federal Protection under
> the Endangered Species Act.

This was posted on ecolog-l a while ago with much indignation.  I don't
want to downplay the development consequences or the interference with
FWS by the administration; however, looking over the report it just
sounds like typical mammal oversplitting.  If the report is correct (a
big if - there was considerable question about the authors' biases and
qualifications), it's difficult to see how it could be considered a
separate taxon.  Even the commentors who opposed the conclusion admitted
there was nothing distinguishing about it (except possibly behavior),
and some effectively said "Yes there's no way to tell it from any other
jumping mouse, but I still think it's a valid taxon.  Maybe someday
we'll find something."

Give me a break.  This is the kind of thing that gives ammunition to
people who want to gut the ESA.  It also underlines the problems in
using endangered species to conserve larger ecosystems.  It's maddening
that whether a big chunk of land is paved over or at least somewhat
preserved comes down to such minor taxonomy, instead of looking at the
bigger picture.

"Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has
gotten into the wrong hands."   --Jesse Helms

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