[Taxacom] Ethiopian versus Afrotropical

John D. Oswald j-oswald at tamu.edu
Wed Aug 13 14:31:31 CDT 2008


    I would agree that there are plenty of difficulties inherent in 
making broad biological, environmental, etc. generalizations about such 
regions. However, such terms, when tied to precise boundaries, can be 
used effectively as convenient labels for chunks of real estate more 
inclusive than 'country'. Used in this limited way, the terms can convey 
a precise meaning -- a particular geography -- even if the justification 
for determining the actual boundaries are, ultimately, somewhat arbitrary.
    I am aware, also, that there are many different sets of regions that 
various authors have proposed, and that the boundaries of such zones, 
even those with similar or identical names, are often not the same. As 
Chris has observed, however, my question was not about the precise 
boundaries of such zones, nor of their 'reality', nor of their 
predictive power, etc., but rather, specifically, about the name that 
might be most appropriately used for one such region that is very 
commonly recognized -- the area that is frequently referred to as the 
Ethiopian or Afrotropical region (and perhaps under other names as well).
    I have for many year used the term Ethiopian for this general 
region. In a recent conversation with an African colleague, however, it 
was suggested that Afrotropical might be the more appropriate or 
'modern' term for this region. I am trying to learn what basis there 
might be for this alternative use, and how prevalent its use is relative 
to other terms that may be substantive synonyms. In the end one might 
argue that as long as one adequately defines one's usage that there 
should be no problems with interpretation. OK. But yet, as in most 
matters of nomenclature, there is often a premium to be had in 
communication by using the best known or most frequently used term. Does 
anyone have a sense of the relative usage of these (and perhaps other 
alternate) terms? (Chris & Doug: I have noted your reference. Thanks.)

John Oswald


John Grehan wrote:
> Proves my point. They're all arbitrary. They can feel whatever they
> like, but the units do not have any empirical existence.
>
> John Grehan 
>
>
>   
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
>> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Thompson, Chris
>> Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 12:48 PM
>> To: John D. Oswald; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Ethiopian versus Afrotropical
>>
>> John:
>>
>> The term Afrotropical was coined by the dipterists at the then British
>> Museum (Natural History) when they started on their catalogue of the
>> Diptera of Afrotropical region.
>>
>> Their (Crosskey & White) paper justifying this is in the Journal of
>> Natural History (1977) 11: 541-544.
>>
>> They felt as the Diptera Community continues to feel that
>>     
> Afro-tropical
>   
>> is a nice match to Neo-tropical and the older Ethiopian name has some
>> bad historical (racial) connotations, etc.
>>
>> Now some dipterists are suggesting that we go further and change the
>> Australian region into Austro-tropical region.
>>
>> Cheers
>>
>> F. Christian Thompson
>> Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
>> c/o Smithsonian Institution MRC-0169
>> PO Box 37012
>> Washington, D. C. 20013-7012
>> (202) 382-1800 voice
>> (202) 786-9422 fax
>> www.diptera.org Diptera Website
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of John D.
>>     
> Oswald
>   
>> Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 11:36 AM
>> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> Subject: [Taxacom] Ethiopian versus Afrotropical
>>
>> Can anyone provide commentary on the appropriateness, preference,
>>     
> and/or
>   
>> subtleties involved in using the term Ethiopian, versus Afrotropical,
>>     
> in
>   
>> referring to the biogeographic faunal region that generally
>>     
> encompasses
>   
>> sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the southern/southeastern Arabian
>> peninsula? Is usage here largely determined by the historical usage
>> found in the literature of different taxa? Does this usage vary
>> appreciably based on where one works (e.g., do biologists in Africa
>>     
> tend
>   
>> to use one term, while biologists in other areas of the world tend to
>> use the other)? Which is the 'better' term, and why? Are there
>> substantive reasons for using one term over the other? Are the terms
>> considered synonymous in general usage, or are there important
>> subtleties of meaning implicit in each? Is there a concise discussion
>>     
> of
>   
>> these issues in the literature somewhere (citations please...)?
>>
>> John Oswald
>>
>> --
>> John D. Oswald
>> Associate Professor
>> Department of Entomology
>> Texas A&M University
>> College Station, TX  77843-2475
>> USA
>>
>> E-mail: j-oswald at tamu.edu
>> Phone: (979) 862-3507
>> More at: http://insects.tamu.edu/people/faculty/oswaldj.cfm
>>
>> Lacewing Digital Library: http://lacewing.tamu.edu/
>> Neuropterida Species of the World:
>> http://lacewing.tamu.edu/Species-Catalogue/index.html
>> Bibliography of the Neuropterida:
>>
>>     
> http://entowww.tamu.edu/research/neuropterida/neur_bibliography/botn_sea
>   
>> rch.html
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
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>>     

-- 
John D. Oswald
Associate Professor
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX  77843-2475
USA

E-mail: j-oswald at tamu.edu
Phone: (979) 862-3507
More at: http://insects.tamu.edu/people/faculty/oswaldj.cfm

Lacewing Digital Library: http://lacewing.tamu.edu/
Neuropterida Species of the World: http://lacewing.tamu.edu/Species-Catalogue/index.html
Bibliography of the Neuropterida: http://entowww.tamu.edu/research/neuropterida/neur_bibliography/botn_search.html









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