[Taxacom] Semantic Web: What is a species?

tyler tyler.smith at mail.mcgill.ca
Sun Jan 25 13:12:40 CST 2009

Gordon Ramel writes:

 > Ultimately I believe we need to give up on our somewhat battered
 > boxes and simply map and track the genetic diversity across the
 > world and through, albeit I accept that even if we all agreed to do
 > this we do not yet have the ability.

Wow, that's depressing. The logical conclusion of this perspective
would be that entire practise of taxonomy was just a place-holder,
rendered completely obsolete by the development of in situ
bar-coding/fingerprinting in the year 20XX. What a great relief it
will be to finally burn our 'battered boxes' and get down to the real
work of ecology, mapping the distribution of molecular markers among
organisms in space and time.

What I think you're missing is that while we need a plurality of
species concepts to account for the varied ways that 'species' come
about in different taxa, we should also accept a plurality of
perspectives on the idea of 'species', as applied to the same organisms
in different contexts.

For a taxonomist working on a complex of cryptically varying taxa, the
notion of a 'species' may indeed be an artificial construct. But a
community ecologist may be working on a system where only one of these
variants is present, along with dozens of other 'species' that are, in
the local context, entirely distinct from each other. In this context,
the species is a biological reality. A species that is artificial on a
global/evolutionary scale can be very real at a local/ecological



There is no theory of evolution. 
Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.


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