[Taxacom] Integrative taxonomy

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sat Jul 31 19:08:23 CDT 2010

I'm happy (as always) to be contradicted, but this paper is the first I've read in years that takes a truly broad, non-partisan view  of taxonomy. If I was teaching taxonomy (in one of the few institutions that still do it), I'd make it required reading for my students. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that even Richard Zander might like it - because of its evolutionary emphasis.

The specific proposal of candidate species names is a good one, but leaves open the question of what to do about newly diagnosed forms that can't be associated in this way with a named species, or even a genus. Maybe the best way to deal with this is to include candidates of this kind in broader systematic treatments. This has been done for a very long time in animal taxonomy, at least, by describing new species in genus Whateverus, and then a 'Whateverus sp.' or two in the back of the paper - described, but not named.

If I have any problem at all with the thoughtful nature of this paper, it's that it completely ignores geographic location as an evolutionary character. That's a shame, because a paper the authors point to with admiration - the Bond et al. study of trapdoor spiders in California - showed that the entities diagnosed by molecular and ecological characters occupied discrete parts of the map. If you want to open the door to understanding 'species' as lineages, then you need to accept that separate lineages typically live in separate places, and that this is a Big Clue.
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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