[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Gurcharan Singh-satyam singhg at satyam.net.in
Wed Jun 17 01:41:10 CDT 2009

For last few days there has been a lot of discussion on this topic. Nearly 
33 years back in 1976 (when number of taxonomists could be counted on 
fingers) I had described a new species from Kashmir, Tragopogon kashmirianus 
G. Singh, an allotetraploid, a possible natural cross between diploid T. 
dubius and T. porrifolius, quite distinct from American T. mirus another 
allotetraploid hybrid between these two species, always wondering how can 
same parental species give rise to two different species. I must have spent 
a few hundred rupees to to establish and publish this new species. 32 years 
later in 2006  E. V.  Mavrodiev, I Navchoo, D E Soltis & P S Soltis 
presented their work at Botany 2006 of Botanical Society of America based on 
molecular studies of the complex. They investicated ITS, ETS and plastid 
sequence data to reach a conclusion, that solved my question: that T. 
kashmirianus is quite distinct from T mirus and T. dubius of Kashmir is 
distinct from T. dubius of America. They must have spent thousands of 
dollars over a longer period of time, to reach this conclusion. Are these 
and other workers investigating molecular data not taxonomists? A simple 
look at the number of papers published during last few years, as listed at 
APG website is sufficient to reinforce the fact that taxonomy is fast 
developing and not falling down. Imagine the amount of funds being spent in 
various labs to investigate molecular phylogeny. It is a great jump from a 
simple microscope, hand lens, fresh and herbarium specimens. Who says 
taxonomy is declining. It has evolved to include and integrate other fields 
of biology. Let us not again get lost in the distinction (debate originated 
in middle of last century, but died down in 12-15 years) of classical and 
modern taxonomy. Taxonomy is always taxonomy. It is fast evolving and 
keeping pace with other fields of science.

Gurcharan Singh
Department of Botany
SGTB Khalsa College
University of Delhi

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bob Mesibov" <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: "Donat Agosti" <agosti at amnh.org>
Cc: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>; <pete.devries at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:12 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

> Donat, your anecdotal evidence that people are attracted to certain 
> projects is very interesting. However every review of taxonomy I have read 
> in the past 15 years tells me that the number of working taxonomists is 
> decreasing. What solid evidence is there that the number of working 
> taxonomists has been increased by the availability of digital tools? Or 
> are you simply hopeful that this will happen?
> And once attracted, how are new taxonomists going to make a living as 
> professionals? Is the number of job openings for taxonomists increasing?
> Note that I am talking about taxonomy in the traditional sense: the 
> discovery, documentation and classification of life. If you believe that 
> taxonomy includes gathering up COI barcodes and building trees with them 
> without careful study of the whole organisms, let alone formally naming 
> and describing them, then we have another difference of opinion.
> -- 
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
> Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html
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