[Taxacom] Integrative taxonomy

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sat Jul 31 21:04:33 CDT 2010

Stephen, I don't think you're seeing this issue as broadly as do the authors of the article. There is an enormous amount of character evidence for lineage separation coming out of molecular studies. It's coming out far faster than the shrinking taxonomic workforce can deal with it, i.e. can look more closely at all the lineage distinctions (molecular and other) and make a solid taxonomic case for naming these entities.

What currently happens is that molecular, non-taxonomic papers appear in which the authors mutter ominously about 'cryptic species' and leave it at that. The authors of the Frontiers in Zoology paper are thinking about ways to integrate this information into a broader taxonomic picture. I am absolutely rock-solid against describing new species on DNA evidence alone, but I am perfectly happy with candidate-species tags for entities with congruent coalescents in a variety of genes. These are place-holders pointing to the need for further work.

Keeping track of such things is a trivial bookkeeping exercise. Maybe what's needed is a single journal, a la the single journal in which prokaryote taxonomy gets published, in which candidate species get published: The Journal of Molecular and Possible Taxonomy. After follow-up work by knowledgeable taxonomists (see the Ebach and Carvalho article Taxacomers were pointed to), candidates could graduate to full species in a mainstream journal.
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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