[Taxacom] Justifying species?

Dick Jensen rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Sun Feb 17 14:01:42 CST 2008

I am inclined to agree with Jody.  There is no harm done by explaining how the species I recognize fits with different species concepts.  Historically, this was not a great problem, but today it is no longer adequate to declare, as Bob suggests, that 'It's a species because I'm an experienced taxonomist and I say it's a species.'
This may reflect the need to justify species designations in the contect of what is politically expedient and necessary.  Is the Florida panther a species or subspecies?  It is important, under many existing laws, for endangered taxa to be recognized as species and the greater the justification for declaring a taxonomic entity to be a species, the more likely it is to be eligible for protection. 


Dick J 

Richard Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

tel: 574-284-4674

----- Original Message -----
From: Jody Haynes <jody at plantapalm.com>
To: Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Sun, 17 Feb 2008 08:39:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Justifying species?

Although I agree that authors (who may or may not be classically trained or 
even admitted taxonomists) must be firm when describing new species, I do 
appreciate this particular philosophical approach. Too many times have 
'experienced' taxonomists 'laid down the law' with regard to a particular 
taxon or taxa and ended up causing confusion and controversy rather than 
resolution. I firmly believe that some level of overkill (for lack of a 
better word) is good when determining what is or is not a 'species', and I 
applaud the authors in question for making the effort to examine their data 
in light of varying species concepts -- and then taking the time to explain 
it to the reader. If only more authors would put this much thought into new 
species descripitions!


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Paul van Rijckevorsel" <dipteryx at freeler.nl>
To: "taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 6:31 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Justifying species?

> 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
> positions).
> Taxonomy is about taking a stand, not about waffling.
> Paul
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