[Taxacom] [iczn-list] Taxonomy (and ICZN) mention in The Scientist

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Mar 9 21:16:37 CST 2011

Pete deVries wrote:

"Shall I throw in the idea that the species themselves to a pretty good job of self-recognition but few humans seem interested in determining what mechanisms they use...Why do we assume that these characters are something we can see?"

You're right, those mechanisms are studied by fewer humans than the few taxonomists in this world, and there's a good reason. The mechanisms are *hard* to study, like a lot of real-world biology. And if you patiently watch mating choice trials among animals in the lab, or tinker with pollination in the greenhouse - well, that's not Science these days, is it? Who's going to fund you? Where will you publish? How will you pay for field work to see if your lab/greenhouse results apply in the natural world?

But the taxonomists I know certainly do *not* assume that species recognition is reflected in morphology. Nice if it is, but. Morphology is handy and so far as most of us know, a pretty good fit to real species boundaries. Barcoding is becoming equally handy but not quite so good a fit. That could improve when appropriately taxon-specific gene sets start accumulating in sequence libraries. But we're still talking about looking for species boundaries, not investigating the mechanisms that generate and maintain them.
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
Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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