[Taxacom] Justifying species?

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sun Feb 17 05:31:40 CST 2008

From: "Bob Mesibov" <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
> Hi, Robin.

> It was a genuine question, inspired by the 'therefore' in the quote from
> the paper.

> The authors have gone way past 'It's a species because I'm an
> experienced taxonomist and I say it's a species.' They've also gone way
> past the judgment/algorithms that let you split a cladogram mechanically
> into species.

> They seem to be saying, 'If you define a species by criterion A, then
> this sampled population is a species. If you define a species by
> criterion B, then this sampled population is also a species. The more
> different criteria get satisfied, the more confident we are in erecting
> a new Linnean species for the population sampled.'

> This nimbly steps around the question of whether species are real. It
> also avoids dwelling on Kirk Fitzhugh's concept of a species as an
> evolutionary hypothesis which explains a distribution of character
> states.

> It's more like a protocol or tick-off list. Never seen such a thing
> before, but then I don't read the taxonomic literature outside my
> specialty.
> -- 

If the first author of such a paper is working to doctorate degree it is
more understandable (such papers tending to be heavy on theory).

Otherwise it sounds like an apology to be publishing a taxonomic decision.
Note that a taxonomic decision needs to have a certain firmness. Under the
ICBN, Art 34.1 (b) requires the author to be firm (a "provisional name" is
not allowed); in addition, Art 34.2 precludes a name being too hypothetical:
after 1 January 1958 the author is not allowed to put forward two or more
tentative names at the same time (in two or more different taxonomic

Taxonomy is about taking a stand, not about waffling.


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