[Taxacom] barcoding article

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Jul 28 18:07:22 CDT 2010

Well, it's a long and angry diatribe (and you can download the whole article here: http://submission.scielo.br/index.php/zool/article/view/22823), and it mixes good, sound arguments with lousy ones.

One point made by these authors wants trumpeting, though: "For instance, we will have no control over the biodiversity crisis if all known species are described, catalogued and their taxonomic groups fully revised. All systematics can contribute is in providing a single number of species. Given this number, we may be able to monitor the rate of loss, but identifying and preventing the causes of extinction are well beyond the goals and abilities of systematics."

I'm personally pretty fed up with hearing taxonomy linked urgently to the current mass extinction, as if discovering and documenting new forms of life was part of a solution. Taxonomists do not influence human reproductive rates. Taxonomists do not influence resource and habitat exploitation. Taxonomists have minimal influence over the placement and management of nature reserves, whose future success is independent of human actions in any case.

Next time you hear 'There is an urgent need for more taxonomic effort because species are disappearing at an accelerating rate,' question the connection. The only logically sound answer is 'Because taxonomists need to salvage specimens of, and knowledge about, species before they disappear'.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
03 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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