[Taxacom] barcode of life

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Jul 5 09:50:45 CDT 2010

I've struggled with certain species of mosses in which I did revisions that lumped some taxa long considered separate at the species level. First, I published short descriptions of the extreme variants of each as "facies." Nobody liked that. Then, I published them as varieties. Nobody liked that. Then I published them as separate species. Suddenly my work was popular. Poor Richard said "Now that I have a cow and a sheep, everyone bids me good morrow." Apparently Mammal facies cow and Mammal facies sheep isn't good enough.
Lesson: A revisionist works not only for themself but also for peers. 
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: Richard Pyle [mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org]
Sent: Sun 7/4/2010 5:18 PM
To: Richard Zander; 'Stephen Thorpe'; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] barcode of life

One final thing:  The point has been raised several times in the past (in
print, at least -- if not on Taxacom), that the question of whether or not
two populations represent different species is separate from the question of
whether or not those populations should be labeled with different species
epithets.  I *think* I understand where this sentiment is coming from, but I
don't think I buy it.  I'm not aware of any case where biologists have said
"these are clearly the same species, but we'll continue to call them by
separate species names"; or "these are clearly distinct species, but we
think that people should continue calling them by the same name".  Much more
often we see the softer: "our evidence clearly suggests that these should be
treated as distinct species, but we'll leave it to someone else to change
the name".  In other words, while one may be able to make a philosophical
argument that whether they *are* distinct species is separate from whether
they should be *named* as different species; in practical terms, I think
there is no meaningful distinction.

But in this context, perhaps one's perspective on how lines should be drawn
between species depends on whether one is looking at the issue through the
eyes of a nomenclaturist, or through the eyes of an evolutionary biologist.


P.S. Apologies for the length of this post, which will (no-doubt) reinforce
my reputation as a voluminous poster to this -- despite my best efforts in
recent years to establish a track record to the contrary.

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