[Taxacom] very nice opinion article in today's Zootaxa

James Whitfield jwhitfie at life.illinois.edu
Wed Sep 14 19:29:30 CDT 2011

The point is here that with Brower's paper BOTH classical taxonomic
opinion and DNA barcodes were ignored.  The barcodes (limited as they may
be) actually only backed up what a taxonomist who paid a lot of attention
to life history and natural history had already recognized - that there
were likely to be species taxa WITHIN Astraptes fulgerator. If it is 10 or
not, we cannot perhaps be sure yet, but it is surely not 1. BOTH
morphology and genetics indicate that. Can we not leave the issue to
Burns, an experienced hesperiid taxonomist, and not to Brower, who has not
seriously studied these taxa?
In this case I am saying please let's be patient and listen to the
experienced taxonomist, not political statements against barcoding. In
this case we have a lot of natural history ALSO supporting the split into
multiple species. Many of us have to describe species with MUCH less
evidence than this.


> I had passed along this recent set of messages to a colleague who
> does a lot of sequencing, and he had a response to John Shuey's
> following message:
>>Indeed - to follow up on Jim's comment, the Brower paper was
>>intended as a provocation.  Brower did not examine any material
>>directly, or handle the actual types (his paper places them at U.
>>Penn when they are really at the USNM) and pre-empted John Burns'
>>long-term work to provide descriptive descriptions of these species
>>based on a blend of adult and larval morphology, ecology and
>>barcodes.  We are left with 10 stupid names that no-one can tell
>>apart without barcodes....  Quite a disservice in my mind and an
>>absolute slap in the face to Burns and Janzen's efforts to get real
>>descriptions of these bugs out....
> To pass along my friend's comment:
> "This is confusing, because if the barcoders' claims are correct
> (which seems doubtful, but let's ignore that for the moment), then
> Burns' study should find exactly 10 taxa, corresponding exactly to
> Brower's 10 taxa, and everything should be fine. In other words, it
> only partially pre-empts Burns' work, and then only if the barcode
> phylogeny was 100% right, in which case the names are not at all
> stupid. What Burns will accomplish then is adding more characters to
> help recognize these species, which isn't an insignificant
> contribution, given the impracticality of barcoding every specimen in
> existence. He can still publish descriptions, and people will be
> happy to have them. The only thing that would be pre-empted is the
> actual authorship of the new names, and that's not much of a slap in
> the face. But if Burns eventually comes to a completely different
> conclusion, then that would mean that the barcodes were misleading
> (and Brower was right to criticize that approach), and Burns' work
> would be validated by virtue of proving the barcode phylogeny wrong,
> allowing him to sink some of Brower's names into synonymy and
> describe new species himself. His face would remain essentially
> unslapped, aside from Brower's shameless sarcasm."
> My own comment on this is to point out that, technically, even if
> Brower cited the type depositories incorrectly, the Code
> unfortunately does not require that what is published has to be
> correct. Likewise, it can be argued that the "diagnostic characters"
> might easily prove not to be diagnostic if more sampling were to be
> done (i.e., that a "uniquely fixed state" proves later to be
> variable), but this also still technically satisfies the Code.
> Ultimately, the descriptions are technically Code-compliant, even if
> erroneous, and even though treating codon position states as
> diagnostic characters really stretches the Code. If there's any
> controversy here, it's going to boil down to the taxonomy (which is
> obviously contentious) rather than the nomenclature.
> Peace,
> --
> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
> phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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James B. Whitfield
Department of Entomology
320 Morrill Hall
505 S. Goodwin Avenue
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801

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