[Taxacom] Read... and believe...

Jim Croft jim.croft at gmail.com
Sat Sep 5 13:15:54 CDT 2009

Hi Tony

I would really like to know the answer to your first question.  And I
suspect the answer is pretty close to or at least the same order of
magnitude as the number of taxa that have heterotypic or taxonomic
synonyms.  Whatever the figure, it is likely to be large... very

I was shoping that no-one would ask the what does it all mean does it
all matter question... :)

When it comes to species covered by legislation, the concept is
absolutely critical.  As a young botanist I spent days in court (as
expert witness, not accused, I should add) arguing identification
taxonomic concepts in Cannabis species.  Millions of development and
construction dollars are regularly help up while concepts of
endangered species are thrashed out.

The twitcher/birdo example is actually a good one.  Their game works
because there are not all that many bird species, for the most part
they are reasonably distinctive, there are a plethora of regional
lists and sighting records and there are a large number of references
to aid visual identification.  But importantly, every species likely
to be encountered has a common name, the names and their application
have been standardized and everyone uses them.  In short the concepts
have largely been sorted out.  When someone yells 'OMG, a Red Twisted
Pheasant Plucker', everyone knows exactly what it is and that these
days it includes the northern and southern stains.  With plants and
invertebrates things are not so easy (although they make a pretty good
attempt wit the Banksia Atlas).

BTW, my world is perfect.   It is our understanding of it that leaves
a lot to be desired...  :)


On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 4:32 PM, <Tony.Rees at csiro.au> wrote:
> Hi Jim, all,
> Well I think it might be good to look at this issue from a couple of other angles. First, how many taxa have a variety of "taxon concepts" as oppose to just one (proabably a minority); second, without a reference specimen (or taxonomic grade photo or drawing) for restrospective checking, all reported observations are unguaranteed in terms of accuracy (of both ID, collection locality, date-time, and possibly more); the question is then, when does this matter. Which is probably some permutation of (a) are there other species close enough to be liable to be confused with the one reported, and (b) how crucial is the observation (e.g. a range extension or something else of potential novel interest). If it is the latter, then probably corroborative evidence such as a new visit are required; at least the report would then be a prompt that closer re-inspection may be useful. The bird atlas folk have this down to a fine art; reports of easly-to-identify species in expected aeas are generally accepted, hard-to-identify ones or range / seasonal extensions require expert confirmation before they are added to the atlas. Not too hard, I would say... In any case, isolated outliers / vagrants are of little weight until confirmed with additional data, or if they cannot be confirmed, may always be suspect. We live in an imperfect world; how much perfection is required? (Answer depends on your particular requirement, no doubt).
> - Tony

Jim Croft ~ jim.croft at gmail.com ~ +61-2-62509499 ~
... in pursuit of the meaning of leaf ...
... 'All is leaf' ('Alles ist Blatt') - Goethe

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