[Taxacom] panbiogeography critique

michael.heads at yahoo.com michael.heads at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 29 22:05:10 CDT 2009

Dear Michael, 

My responses to your detailed letter are given below. I appreciate the correspondence very much - please don't be put off by the 'robust debate'! Editorial policy in most journals means that discussion of these issues (robust or otherwise) is impossible there. 

Michael Heads

--- On Tue, 6/30/09, mivie at montana.edu <mivie at montana.edu> wrote:

> From: mivie at montana.edu <mivie at montana.edu>
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
> To: michael.heads at yahoo.com
> Cc: "John Grehan" <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>, taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 5:29 AM
> Dear Michael,
> You seem like a nice person, and well-meaning, and have
> interesting ideas,
> but there are some marginalia that just require answers.
> Jumping beyond (or lateral to) the actual data is a problem
> that needs to
> be dealt with, as are the non sequiturs that seem to
> distract you.

MH: I don't think I'm he one being being distracted! I suggested that we discuss the West Indian disjunctions that you brought up, as I also find these patterns (such as Jamaica/Hispaniola - Dominica/Martinique) of great interest. I think this would be a good concrete topic for discussion but you haven't responded to this. I'm still especially interested to know of *any* other published discussion of this pattern or even just good, up-to-date examples (e.g. anything you've published on this or unpublished examples that you're willing to share).  

> 1) I never said anything about ignoring Pierre Jolivet

MH: When I suggested that you might find Jolivet's article interesting your response was 'are you kidding?' I guess this means you thought it was not worthwhile even looking at. But why not?  

, and
> again, you use
> the venue (Mol. Phylogen. Evol.) of a paper as some sort of
> indicator of
> importance. Panbiogeographers often fall for this
> "validation by
> authority" argument, but it is totally invalid. The CONTENT
> is what is
> important, not the VENUE nor the AUTHORITY.

MH: I agree completely. I wasn't trying to 'validate' anything. My citation of Mol. Phylogen. Evol. was simply a bibliographic reference. You're too sensitive! 

> 2) Further to that mindset, you mention there are "now
> hundreds of
> publications dealing with panbiogeography" and, I might add
> thousands of
> papers dealing with creationism, but this does not validate
> either.  There
> are tens of thousand of non-panbiogeography papers using
> other
> biogeography methods, but that does not make them valid
> either.  IT IS
> CONTENT of the specific paper that counts -- this is not an
> election, nor
> a beauty contest -- it is SCIENCE.

MH: Again, I agree completely. My reference to the Brazilian website was just to let people know that it existed and to indicate that people south of the border do not all regard panbiogeography as ridiculous.

> 3) Nothing Haile Selassie said has anything to do with the
> beliefs of the
> Rastafari (also known as Rastafarians -- sort of like
> nothing Jesus said
> has anything to do with wars started by Christians). You
> are obviously
> confused here, and should not delve into non sequiturs that
> you do not
> understand 

MH: You're starting to sound a bit pompous here. Are you really such an expert? If you'd spent much time camping out for months on end in the back blocks of Jamaica, west Africa, east Africa, New Guinea, New Zealand etc. you might understand more of what this man's words meant to the people there. 

-- it does not help your reputation. This one is
> my fault, but
> continuing to be worried about what was simply a bad (and
> from a
> culturally narrow context) joke is rather off the issue.

MH: I agree - I didn't bring up the topic.

> 4) Cracraft in the review cited and in other works supports
> what makes
> sense and can be scientifically utilized --  so
> what?  He is just doing
> what most scientists do everyday.  While that is
> laudable, it should be
> normal.  That single cited example of published
> exposure of the errors of
> panbiogeography does not rely on the AUTHORITY of Joel
> Cracraft, but the
> excellence of his logic.  There are many others, they
> are easy to find,
> and I did not need to bother people with many when one
> served the purpose.
>  To try to distract the audience with discussions of
> Cracraft as an
> AUTHORITY does nothing to add to the discussion. Cracraft
> has made errors,
> he is human, and therefore each paper must be read and
> evaluated like any
> others.

MH: I agree. But you haven't answered the question: why does Cracraft criticise Croizat in reviews but then use his ideas (without acknowledgment)? I suppose it is because he wants to be seen as the great originator. Anyway, the interesting point is that the idea of 'passive uplift' of populations and taxa in the Andes is now out in the open and can be discussed. I'd be very interested to hear about other taxa where this idea might be useful. The first case study in Croizat's Panbiogeography (1958) concerned a small patch of xerophytic vegetation very typical of that found widespread on the coast but anomalous where it is, 'trapped' high in the Andes of western Venezuela and surrounded by mesic vegetation.  

> 5) Lastly (for this series), science does not produce
> conclusions,  it
> produces testable hypotheses.  Your own statement "One
> of the main
> conclusions of panbiogeography," shows which camp it is
> in.

MH: Many papers end with 'conclusions' - this is a formality; it doesn't mean the author (or anyone else) regards these as absolute and final - they are 'interim conclusions' (yes, I know, this is a contradiction; see on this, e.g., the American philosopher Richard Rorty).     

> As for West Indian biogeography, the problems are many and
> well known.  I
> find Jamaica pretty easy to get a handle on, as the large
> new land area
> emerging from the sea was populated by individual
> propagules that would
> allow, via founder effect, open niches and selective
> pressure, rapid
> evolution of highly differentiated  forms.  

MH: Yes, this is the textbook account. But what about the many problems that the texbooks never mention? For example, all the taxa endemic to the SW Pacific + central Pacific + Caribbean? This might reflect Cretaceous tectonics rather than Mayr/Templeton founder effect speciation, the 'empty niche syndrome', etc. that everyone learns as an undergraduate. Note that many orthodox population geneticists, such as Coyne and Orr in their 2004 book (Speciation), no longer support founder effect speciation. (This is a bibliographic reference; I'm not saying or implying that it's the absolute truth). 
   Just one example: yesterday a correspondent (off-list) pointed out a millipede, Agathodesmus, that occurs with endemic species in East Australia, New Caledonia and Jamaica. This is a very good example. Of course, it may have blown from New Caledonia to Jamaica in the eye of a storm (the most improbable events become certainties given the extent of geological time), the taxonomy might be wrong, ancient Polynesians might have accidentally transported it, it may have formerly occurred everywhere else around the world and then gone extinct there etc., etc. But why not suspend judgement - just for a moment! - and consider the possibility that it may be part of a general pattern. You could test this easily, e.g. by looking at other groups.      

> oddity has resulted in
> them being recognized at high taxonomic levels (endemic
> genera, etc.) in
> the absence of good phylogenies that would probably not
> support that
> placement in a monophyletic classification. 

 MH: why 'probably not'? Why guess about what the future will bring rather than dealing with the huge amount of excellent data that we already have? To quote that well-known phylogeneticist Doris Day: 'que sera sera'.

It is therefore
> very different
> from the older, vicariant faunae of the other, older,
> Greater Antilles.
> This is a terrible example of ad hoc justification and an
> admitted
> just-so-story, but it can be used as the starting point for
> refutable
> hypotheses.  It should not be cited as a supported
> theory, but it helps me
> through the day.

MH: yes, it is terribly ad hoc and yes, it keeps many people happily employed.  But in an earlier post you admitted that the more you learn about West Indian biogeography the less you understand. I appreciate your frankness and I know the feeling. Now - how can we go forward?

> This is a very different situation from New Caledonia,
> which has basal
> lineages that confound conventional wisdom, rather than
> terminal ones.

MH: New Caledonia is a good example because it is so clear but the same principles seem to hold elsewhere. The millipede I cited linking New Caledonia and Jamaica also confounds conventional wisdom.  

> The so-called West Indian disjunctions may also benefit
> from phylogenetic
> information to understand if, for instance, the Greater
> Antillean and
> Windward Island groups are related via nodes rooted on the
> mainland rather
> than via direct "tracks" (to use a term you understand, not
> to support
> panbiogeography nor steal Leon's concepts without
> citation).   I.E. they
> may be opposite ends of a "C" rather and an "I."

MH: But they're *not* related via nodes on the mainland - that's the whole point. You can always explain these by ad hoc extinctions, ad hoc dispersals, what other phylogenies 'might show in the future' etc., etc. But does this approach lead anywhere interesting? Does it really help us understand? Does it make bold ('ridiculous') predictions or does it just help maintain our earlier ideas? Getting back to basics -  again, why can't we discuss actual patterns? 
   Anyway, here's a good one from beetles, picked at random: the four clades of the Platynus jaegeri group, comprising 32 Caribbean species (Leibherr 1988):
   1. Jamaica (four species), sister to the remaining three clades. 
   2. Hispaniola and northern Central America. Sister to the following two clades.
   3. (Dominica (Martinique (Guadeloupe and Dominica (Hispaniola, Cuba)))). Sister to the following.
   4. (Panama (Central America (northern Central America, Hispaniola))).       
   Note especially the basal position of Jamaica, and also the disjunction in group 3 between Guadeloupe etc. and Hispaniola, skipping Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles. Beautiful! Do you know any more good ones like this?

> The Barbados issue is one that has 2 problems, both of
> which also apply to
> Jamaica: first, the molecular clocks may be totally
> miscalibrated, 

MH: I agree, but the clade dates are probably too young, not too old! Clocks are calibrated using fossils (which give minimum ages only, but the derived dates are, illogically, treated as maximum dates) or the age of islands, and these will also give dates that are too young if taxa formerly survived on other, former islands.  

> second (and most importantly, I think), there is no reason
> to think the
> LINEAGE that produced the Barbados population made a direct
> path from the
> nearest KNOWN relative on the clock and where they both
> occur today.

MH: I found the grammar and meaning here difficult to follow, but Anolis extremus is endemic to Barbados and has its sister in Martinique. It doesn't matter where the ancestors of the lizard/s formerly survived, dispersed etc. The point is, it looks as though the Barbados endemic is much older than the island. Just one other excellent example: Buckley et al. on the Lord Howe Island stick insect (Proc. Roy. Soc. B 276, 1055-1062. 2009), again dated as much older than the island. Maybe the best available geology is all wrong, maybe the best available phylogenies and clock studies are all wrong, maybe they got their samples mixed up, etc., etc. However, these and other studies are all starting to indicate that it may be unwise to use the age of an island to date the endemic taxa there.  This principle is well-known to panbiogeographers.       

> Falling for that argument shows a total lack of
> understanding of both
> geology and biology.  

MH: well you would say that, wouldn't you!

Yet, this type of error is
> repeatedly brought up by
> panbiogeographers (see your own note below) much as
> creationists
> repeatedly cite the purported lack of intermediates to
> claim to invalidate
> evolution.  

MH: comparing panbiogeographers (or any opponents) with creationists is a standard technique but is pretty desperate. In fact, one of the fathers of American ecology, Frederic Clements (now deeply unfashionable) showed clearly that the younger Darwin (not the much more sophisticated older Darwin) was a creationist, cf. the centre of origin (Eden), everything in morphology is perfectly designed, etc. Unfortunately, the ideas of the early Darwin, not those of the later Darwin, were the ones taken up by J.Huxley et al. in their 'modern synthesis' (see my paper in J. Biogeogr. 36:1018-1026. 2009). 

Either they don't understand the argument,
> which means they
> are simply dim, or they willfully hope to mislead in order
> to convert the
> uninformed.
> Lastly, repeating ad nauseum 

(Trivial aside from MH: Why do so many biologists now say 'ad nauseum'? I'm sick of it. The word is nauseam).

the many, many problems with
> current
> geological understanding; the many, many  places
> biology can show that the
> geologists have a long way to go; and citing the thousands
> of terrible
> papers on biogeography available as straw men, does nothing
> to validate
> the tautological problems inherent in
> panbiogeography.  Again, just
> because  "A" is wrong does not automatically support
> "B," especially when
> "C-Z" are available as alternatives. 

MH: I agree. It seems to me that dispersal is wrong and this does not prove that vicariance is right; far from it. But what are the alternative explanations for allopatric speciation apart from founder effect dispersalism and vicariance? What exactly are your 'C-Z' explanations?

A simple, elementary
> logic exercise
> that has bored people since the ancient Greeks and perhaps
> before them.
> I do not, for the most part, lament the passing of the
> Classical
> Education, but I do wish we had kept required formal
> courses in logic.

> Michael

MH: there's a saying: people who live in glass houses should pull down the blinds... 

> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Dear Michael and colleagues,
> >   
> > You ask whether I was kidding when I suggested you
> might read Pierre
> > Jolivet's 2008 paper in the French journal Le
> Coleopteriste. The answer is
> > no, I wasn't. Pierre has been publishing on beetles
> and plant/insect
> > relations etc. since 1947. He has travelled very
> widely and remains very
> > active (he had a paper in Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 34(3)
> 2005). I think it's a
> > mistake to ignore these senior workers.
> >     The orthodox teaching in the US still
> holds that panbiogeography
> > is 'ridiculous', but south of the Rio Grande things
> are very different.
> > There are now hundreds of publications dealing with
> panbiogeography (see
> > the Brazilian website http://panbiog.infobio.net/bib/panbiog.htm for a
> > bibliography).  
> >    In a separate letter you suggested that the
> rastafarians
> > were afrocentric. I don't know about your friends in
> the Lesser Antilles
> > but Ras Tafari himself, in a famous speech to the UN,
> argued 'That until
> > the color of a man's skin is of no more significance
> than the color of his
> > eyes... the dream of lasting peace and world
> citizenship and the rule of
> > international morality will remain but a fleeting
> illusion, to be pursued
> > but never attained'. This is not afrocentric.
> >    You cite Cracraft's review of our book. Cracraft
> has indeed written
> > critically on panbiogeogaphy, but note that he became
> a supporter of
> > vicariance and in a recent paper on parrots (in Proc.
> Roy. Soc. London
> > 274: 2399-2408. 2007) he is even arguing that high
> altitude Andean
> > populations have been lifted up in situ, with the
> orogeny itself (he calls
> > it "passive uplift"). Although this is a
> fundamental concept in
> > panbiogeography he doesn't cite Croizat.
> (cf. Gould, who read
> > Croizat's books,corresponded with Croizat (I have the
> letters),  and then
> > 'borrowed' the ideas of punctuated
> evolution, 'spandrel' (non-adaptive)
> > evolution etc. without  acknowledgment). The
> main thing of course is that
> > the ideas are out there, not where they came from
> (they weren't original
> > with Croizat anyway).       
> >    Apart from these issues, your comments on
> Antillean biogeography are
> > very interesting indeed. I've never been in the
> Lesser Antilles but I know
> > Jamaica quite well and in many ways the Caribbean is
> the geological and
> > biological mirror image of the SW Pacific (see my
> paper in Biol. J. Linn
> > Soc. 96: 222-245. 2009 on globally 'basal' groups in
> both areas). One of
> > the main conclusions of panbiogeography, now being
> confirmed in several
> > molecular clock studies (e.g. on Lord Howe, the
> Loyalties, French
> > Polynesia etc.), is that endemics on very young
> islands can be very
> > old. The age of the island seems to
> be irrelevant and the age of the
> > structure producing the island (subduction zone,
> propagating fissure or
> > whatever) is more important. The taxa may survive
> around the subduction
> > zone or fissure as metapopulations on the individually
> ephemeral islands.
> > Even orthodox molecular clock studies (Thorpe 2005)
> concluded that
> > Barbados endemic lizards are
> >  older than the island. (It gets tricky because
> so many clock studies are
> > calibrated using the assumption that island endemics
> can be no older than
> > their island). More and more West Indian groups are
> being found to
> > be sister to pan-American mainland groups, not nested
> in them as
> > predicted in dispersal theory. Lesser Antillean groups
> can have diverse
> > cosmopolitan sister groups (e.g. 'Cichlherminia' in
> thrushes). Geologists
> > are at complete loggerheads over Caribbean history -
> one recent model has
> > Cuba forming west of the Galapagos, another has
> it off the Guianas...  
> >    This is where biology comes in as we have so much
> more information
> > (large numbers!) than the geologists. Your
> observations on disjunctions
> > between the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles
> are absolutely
> > crucial and I'd love to see a detailed discussion of
> your patterns. These
> > disjunctions (e.g. missing Puerto Rico and the
> northern Lesser Antilles)
> > are common and were discussed at length by Croizat (do
> you know any other
> > discussions oif this pattern??) but are now popping up
> in molecular
> > studies. Just one example: the bird Myadestes
> genibarbis comprises endemic
> > subspecies in  Jamaica , Hispaniola, and,
> disjunct,  Dominica, Martinique,
> > St. Lucia and St Vincent.  Ricklefs & Bermingham
> (Am. Nat. 163, 227-239.
> > 2004) found this distribution 'unexplainable', but
> they assumed a centre
> > of origin on the mainland. Something is happening
> here, but they don't
> > know what it is...
> >  
> > Michael Heads  
> >
> > Wellington, New Zealand .
> >
> > My papers on biogeography are at: http://tiny.cc/RiUE0
> >
> > --- On Mon, 6/29/09, John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
> wrote:
> >
> >
> > From: John Grehan <jgrehan at sciencebuff.org>
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
> > To: "Fet, Victor" <fet at marshall.edu>,
> mivie at montana.edu
> > Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > Date: Monday, June 29, 2009, 7:31 AM
> >
> >
> > Yes, and Croizat was extremely anticommunist and
> apparently anti
> > anything coming close to it.
> >
> > John Grehan
> >
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-
> >> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
> On Behalf Of Fet, Victor
> >> Sent: Sunday, June 28, 2009 3:25 PM
> >> To: mivie at montana.edu
> >> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> >> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] panbiogeography critique
> >>
> >> >>>>>>No, it is you who miss the
> point, I specifically included Leon
> > as
> >> non-comparable.  If you want someone to compare
> to, Trofim Lysenko is
> > a
> >> better example given the players.
> >>
> >>
> >> Dr. Ivie - can I politely cut into the exciting
> fray and vehemently
> > object
> >> to your overreaching comparisons?
> >>
> >> Lysenko, whose name may be less known to the young
> people on the
> > Taxacom,
> >> besides being a quack, was an avid and criminal
> henchman of a dictator
> >> Stalin, personally guilty in suppression, misery,
> exile, imprisonment
> > and
> >> death of thousands of people, including my late
> teacher Yuli Kerkis.
> >>
> >> Croizat should not be even remotely compared to
> such "players" even in
> >> jest (and I doubt that he would join Hugo Chvez to
> offer a Bolivarist
> >> biology).
> >>
> >> Victor Fet
> >> Marshall University
> >> _______________________________________________
> >>
> >> Taxacom Mailing List
> >> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> >> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >>
> >> The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be
> searched with either of
> >> these methods:
> >>
> >> (1) http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >>
> >> Or (2) a Google search specified as:
> >> site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your
> search terms here
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> >
> > Taxacom Mailing List
> > Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >
> > The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched
> with either of
> > these methods:
> >
> > (1) http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >
> > Or (2) a Google search specified as: 
> > site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your
> search terms here
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> >
> > Taxacom Mailing List
> > Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >
> > The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched
> with either of
> > these methods:
> >
> > (1) http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >
> > Or (2) a Google search specified as:
> > site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your
> search terms here
> >
> >
> >


More information about the Taxacom mailing list