[Taxacom] the decline of taxonomy in N.Z.: a further example

Geoffrey Read gread at actrix.gen.nz
Fri Feb 26 18:27:18 CST 2010


"My grasp of the details here are not clearly flawed"

Stephen, as you have that conviction then that there's not much I can do
further.  I simply say that you haven't convinced me there is anything
unusual going on here with the Phytophthora disease response work that
merits your subject header. In this case  I expect the name will
eventually be attended to if the disease continues to be considered a
problem, and if the specialists involved continue to believe it is
sufficiently distinct to merit one. It's not looking like a good example
to campaign on.

However, I don't doubt that most specialists find it difficult to get
funding for blue-sky taxonomy-only projects in NZ.  Ironically it may be
easier with something that causes official concern, because there may be
funding amongst the millions directed at controlling and counteracting
that can be spun-off for the taxonomy.


>>> Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 02/27/10 11:44 AM >>>
Thanks Geoff for that interesting clarification. I beg to differ slightly
on the conclusions that you draw from it, however. The quote "More work is
needed to determine whether the New Zealand species is new..." can be
interpreted as lobbying for funding to do that work, but to my knowledge
(which may be <6 months out of date), no such funding has been granted (at
least that was the situation as told to me verbally by a person directly
involved about 6 months ago). My grasp of the details here are not clearly
flawed, and this isn't a "battle" as such, just an observation on what I
perceive to be a definite shift away from taxonomy in this country at
least. The fact that "sciencelearn site seems to have it wrong" hardly
reflects badly on me! The article clearly states "However, Dr Gadgil
reports that the fungus is in fact Phytophthora heveae and was first found
in New Zealand in 1972 by scientists from the FRI (Scion) in a small patch
of dying kauri
 saplings on Great Barrier Island". You have correctly noticed that they
are confusing "new" with "undescribed" - a common mistake in my
experience. Still, if they had prioritised the taxonomic
clarification/naming of this thing appropriately, all this confusion
could have been avoided. This is in part why we need "official taxonomic

From: Geoff Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Fri, 26 February, 2010 9:14:01 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] the decline of taxonomy in N.Z.: a further example

>>> Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 02/26/10 5:42 PM >>>
"Actually, I seem to have broadcast this Phytophthora case just 2 weeks
too late - this report
dated 08 February 2010, suggests that it has now been identified as a
described species. Still, when it was thought to be new, there were no
plans to described it ..."

No, you're still on track that it hasn't been id'd as a described species.
That sciencelearn site seems to have it wrong. They say "Dr Gadgil reports
that the fungus is in fact Phytophthora heveae" However, the person they
quote (Peter Gadgil) is just indicating it is not a new _occurrence_. If
you check here in the source newsletter (Oct 2009) [
] you will still see this:

"More work is needed to determine whether the New Zealand species is new
and until that decision is made, an informal name, Phytophthora ‘taxon
AgathisÂ’ is being used (for full details see Beever et al. 2009)."

And: "New Zealand isolates were identical [to each other] and close to but
DISTINCT from the Malaysian P. heveae.

So Stephen, as it now appears you hadn't that much grasp of the details of
the case when you claimed that "nobody will fund the taxonomy of the
Phytophthora to give it an official name!" (a difficult statement to prove
by the way), the advice to choose your battles carefully as given in Ken
Kinman's response applies with full force.

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