[Taxacom] Geophylogenies

Kidd, David M d.kidd at imperial.ac.uk
Thu Nov 11 05:05:40 CST 2010

Thank you John for your candid comments. I have tired to be brief in my response.

I have cut quotes from your post, mine are quoted, yours following the dash. My relpies follow with a double dash.

"the MoL will stimulate the generation of new scientific hypotheses through the juxtaposition of previously disparate information"

- Sounds a bit like a political slogan

-- Currently, the data generated by historical biogeographers remains essentially inaccessible. Making these disperate and diverse data accessible to researchers and other interested parties would, in my opinion, facilitate both scientific innovation and provide an information source of relevance to many audiences. Mobilising these data is a cutural, technological and scientific challenge. Politics is part of this process.

"Comparative analyses of interspecific biogeographical pattern will facilitate the identification of the geographical and ecological context surrounding the evolution of specific traits, speciose radiations, patterns of extinction, and community assemblage"

- Really? Note reference to "will" as if such analyses do not currently exist.

-- I do state many methods currently exist. I am interested in how these different approaches complement each other. This requires the integration of both the raw underlying data and inferences from these data.

"Querying the MoL would allow a student to discover whether a species seen in their locality arrived a few thousand years ago with the Holocene warming or evolved in situ several millions of years ago."

- This is just tripe. A map will not tell you that. The age of a taxon is derived from other information other than the map itself.

-- A map is an interface to information. Dates can be displayed however derived - what's the problem?

"They could quickly locate where its closest relatives live and access information explaining why such closely related species are found in different places."

- The irony of this is that this method already exists in the form of panbiogeographic mapping.

-- I agree with you somewhat here. Indeed, critisism of previous drafts lead to the removal of a paragraph from the paper in which I explicitly recognised the influence of panbiogeography on my thinking. I should perhaps have been more resilient in keeping it in; however I decided it was too thorny subject to deal with given space restrictions. As I'm sure you appreciate, panbiogeography has not been embraced by all - why is that? I have tried to discuss it's merits with a number of groups without success. The desire to reconstruct areas in an analgous way to characters on trees has, I believe, lead to some tunnel vision in this respect. Direct vicariance analysis and biotic elements have similarly suffered from the problem over a shorter time period.

"Synthesis of this diverse and disparate information will require an informatics infrastructure in which both primary data and derived information are interoperable and can be combined through common geographical, temporal, taxonomic, and phylogenetic referencing"

- This is just fluff. Synthesis does not come from simply dumping stuff together, but through the conceptual framework being applied. What is the conceptual framework being applied to these resources?

-- I agree that data synthesis is not in itself a solutions. It does, however, certainly help when undertaking large scale studies. I go on to describe Morrone's recent attempt to conceptually link different methods. I am a pleuralist, different methods can be applied to same data to understand different aspects of history. Making data mobile facilitates a pleuralist approach. Do panbiogeography and maximum liklihood reconstructions infer the similar histories. If so we can be more confident in our inference.

"With the help of expert knowledge, ranges can be inferred directly from species, gene, and fossil observations; the IUCN mammal range database was created in this manner."

- Duh. Ranges are inferred from where they occur now and as fossils. Not sure about what genes are supposed to tell here.

--  Genes have ranges/distributions as well as taxa. All aspects of biodiversity are interesting. Fossils are clearly great evidence of past distributions but the record is patchy. Genetic variation is another source of information that can be applied to help understand biogeographical histories -phylogeography?

"Inference of historical ranges is likely to remain problematic as direct evidence is often limited and inference algorithms lack realism"

- So why bother?

-- So let's work on improving our methods and try and discover how far can we go back using different apporaches?

"As long as the explanatory premises that underlie reconstructions are necessary conditions and are explicitly stated, reconstructions can be falsified when one of the premises is rejected (Andersson 1996)."

- Perhaps whether this has any real meaning will be explained later in the paper.

-- HB is a historical science. Hypothesese are tested in a historical, not an experimental framework. I believe the philisophical bludgeon employed by cladistic biogeographers in the past needs to be be repudiated. Again, a much bigger topic than space allowed.

"Collaboration to build the MoL can only enhance mutual understanding of these different methods and has the potential to stimulate the development of new methods that combine the strengths of individual approaches."

- As the MoL has not yet been characterized one might wonder.

-- Well, some communication is happening?

To sum up;

(1) Lots of data are information on extant biogeographic pattern and taxon histories. These data should be mobilised to enchance further research and inform outside of academia.

(2) HBs use a variety of methods that address different aspect of pattern and process. How can these disperate studies be integrated to provide a holistic picture of the spatiotemporal history of life on earth?

(3) An aim of the paper was to inspire the community with a common goal. Community cohesion has arguably not been great in the past.

Regards Dave

David M. Kidd

Research Associate
Center for Population Biology
Silwood Park Campus
Imperial College London
0207 594 2470

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