[Taxacom] barcode of life

David Campbell pleuronaia at gmail.com
Tue Jul 20 14:56:27 CDT 2010

> 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.

One other non-scientific complication is the fact that recognition of
species can have political implications (besides the "synonomize my
taxon and I'll give you a bad review" or other internal politics of
taxonomy).  U.S. law recognizes endangered vertebrate subspecies, but
other taxa need to be species.  Conversely, splitting a listed species
into two has led to the claim that the newly recognized taxon is no
longer under protection (a dubious reading of the law, but
anti-environmental authorities are not stopped by that).

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"

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