[Taxacom] barcoding article
stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Jul 28 18:59:26 CDT 2010
the real insidious nature of the current molecular systematics boom is subtle,
but goes something like this:
in some corner of the Southern Hemisphere is a systematics unit which really
isn't up to much - anybody who is any good would work elsewhere, but still there
is enough public science funding to be had to be significant to an individual's
life. Doing real descriptive taxonomy is hard and tedious work, particularly if
your not really all that good at it. Then comes along molecular systematics -
hurray! We can use the money to tour around the country again and again,
collecting fresh samples, one species (or one study) at a time. Then all we need
to do is grind the specimens up, put them through a "DNA machine", do a bit of
basic analysis, draw a few graphs and things, and publish - hey presto! But what
about all the taxa that aren't even named yet? Oh, don't worry about those, they
don't matter ...
From: Jason Mate <jfmate at hotmail.com>
To: Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Thu, 29 July, 2010 11:41:40 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] barcoding article
John, you are once again reading between the lines. And in any case it is true
that taxonomy´s end product is a product for other fields. What is so outrageous
about that? And as for "new methods", I think you are against "DNA-only" based
species definitions, which is well and good. But using additional tools
(whatever they may be) to delimit, describe and identify taxa is not debasing
taxonomy. They do provide other angles and insights which are, like morphology,
limited in scope. So using several sources can only help your decision (which is
what it is) in calling something a new species (which species concept you use is
a whole different issue). These methods can be misused of course, but this also
happens with other data sources and it depends on the quality and honesty of the
scientist. I can enumerate plenty of cases of shoddy "traditional" (only
morphology) taxonomy. So cheer up!
> Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 16:44:23 -0400
> From: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] barcoding article
> Excerpt from Malte C. Ebach & Marcelo R. de Carvalho
> Anti-intellectualism in the DNA Barcoding Enterprise
> ZOOLOGIA 27 (2): 165-178, 2010
> "There are two clear-cut ways in which taxonomy should be strengthened.
> first is to give more academic appointments to taxonomists who have
> the substance, and not just the biometric methodology, of systematics,
> who are experts on reasonably large groups of organisms on a continental
> global basis. They must be allowed to take their place among the
> and experimental ecologists now so much in favor in biology departments"
> (WILSON 1971:741).
> Forty years of sentiment for an ailing scientific field is slowly
> turning into resentment. The short article written by WILSON (1971),
> from which the epigraph above is taken, highlighting the plight of
> taxonomy, is in strong contrast to recent calls for taxonomic
> "...morphology alone is known to be inadequate to the task of species
> level identification in many instances" (PACKER et al. 2009: 42).
> "We shall then ask how modern means of sharing data, especially the
> Internet, might be used to make taxonomy more efficient and to improve
> its links with its end-users." (GODFRAY et al. 2008: 943).
> "Taxonomists should embrace new tools that are potentially useful (such
> as DNA barcodes for species discovery and identification and DNA
> taxonomy to help test species boundaries) and catch the attention and
> interest of other scientists." (AGNARSSON & KUNTNER 2007: 534).
> "...taxonomists will display a regrettable lack of foresight for the
> future of taxonomy if we do not integrate all of the methods that are
> now available to delimit species boundaries into a synthetic approach."
> (DAYRAT 2005: 412).
> "The new excitement about taxonomy is driven partly by advances in
> technology, and partly by newly perceived needs given the biodiversity
> crisis." (MALLET & WILLMOTT 2003 57).
> "One can make a case with some justification as to whether the science
> of taxonomy is evolving fast enough in the face of the demands being
> placed upon it by the public and by government policy makers in
> connection with the so-called biodiversity crisis." (SCHRAM 2007: 23).
> Thought to be no more than a service industry for endusers, such as
> ecologists, bioinformatists and conservationists, taxonomy has been
> dumbed-down to that of a technology of a bygone era. This has created
> the image of dusty elitists cocooned in crumbling museums or as Luddites
> dismissing so-called 'progress' wholesale. With this increasing popular
> image in mind, taxonomy, as a scholarly pursuit, is undermined by what
> we refer to as an unwitting anti-intellectual movement within biological
> systematics. The movement uses "scientific" arguments to justify its use
> when in fact it is defying best practice.
> Dr. John R. Grehan
> Director of Science and Research
> Buffalo Museum of Science
> 1020 Humboldt Parkway
> Buffalo, NY 14211-1193
> email: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
> Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372
> Fax: (716) 897-6723
> Ghost moth research
> Human evolution and the great apes
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