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

Kenneth Kinman kennethkinman at webtv.net
Fri Sep 16 11:27:26 CDT 2011

Hi Cristian,
      I agree that some of the sequence differences probably only
indicate intraspecific variation. However, some of the proposed species
are likely full species (like CELTIC and TRIGO), where the sequence
differences are larger and backed up by host specificity, caterpillar
coloration, etc.  Therefore, I sort of like the estimate of at least 3,
but not more than 7, in this particular Costa Rican population.       

     It will probably take a long time to fully sort it all out, because

of complications like "circles of subspecies", which cannot be
documented without much more sampling over a much wider area. It takes a

lot more work to document "cryptic" species in particular, and Janzen
and colleagues are to be commended for what they have accomplished thus
Cristian wrote: 
Dear colleagues,
In the end, we are back to the usual end hole --vandalism in taxonomy.
Is Brower's paper any better in terms of taxonomic progress (or
viceversa) than other vandals we have discussed here? 
At any rate, Brower's descriptions seem so useless! And likely invalid,
because the diagnoses are based on exact sequences that are surely
subject to slight intraspecific variation. How anyone can use that to
work out a taxonomic revision is unclear to me. Of course holotypes are
mentioned, but it will prove hard to match the names with the living
butterflies. Nomina dubia, perhaps. Or rather a novel category --"nomina

fatiganda".  I bet Brower's name will not last... but that will need
an extra effort, thus diverting some attention from relevant taxonomy.
In terms of how many species there might actually exist within Astraptes

or other Neotropical Lepidoptera, I am rather inclined to think that
many more indeed than the highest figures given. While at Penn as a
graduate student, I spent over a year as field research assistant of Dan

Janzen. Collecting, rearing and pinning moths was a big part of the job.

It became clear to me that the real diversity was (and is) grossly
underestimated. So I put much more confidence on Janzen et al.'s
research than I can ever provide to a silly, barely
Code-compliant paper.
All the best,
Cristian R. Altaba
DG Biodiversitat
Conselleria de Medi Ambient
Govern de les Illes Balears

-----taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu escribió: -----
Para: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
De: Kenneth Kinman <kennethkinman at webtv.net>
Enviado por: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Fecha: 16/09/2011 04:30
Asunto: Re: [Taxacom] very nice opinion article in today's Zootaxa
Dear All,
       Although I agree that the Brower crossed the line in more

one way (naming so many of these new species, and also giving some of
them names that are subtly or even blatantly provocative), I can sort of

see his point (even though he went overboard in making it).    
       It is really too bad that the original 2004 paper (which
claimed 10 species in Costa Rica alone) did not formally name the most
distinctive of those species, such as TRIGON.  They could have given
those species more appropriate names and perhaps have thwarted the
reaction by Brower.  I guess that sort of sounds like blaming the
victim, but in the Internet era, it is probably inviting this kind of
problem if you publish this kind of paper with informal names without at

least formally naming the most distinctive of those proposed species.
      In other words, if you are going to publish that kind of
data, it
is probably best to do so in step-wise fashion, naming the most
distinctive species in the first paper, and then tackling the less
distinctive species in subsequent papers.  Otherwise, someone like
Brower will (rightly or wrongly) often jump on you for procrastination
and even propose some inappropriate names for those taxa.     
      Therefore, such a step-wise approach will maximize your
results by
getting your initial  information and the most important of your
names published in a timely fashion, as well as fending off critics in
academia (or even uneducated hacks who have no biological credentials at

all).  I've always advocated a middle ground approach, and proposing
species and not formally naming any of the most distinctive species in
this species complex (back in 2004) was obviously a mistake.  The
they are a changing, and you have to change with them.  
      Anyway, as for this particular species complex in Costa
Rica, I suspect that 10 species is too many (counter to both the 2004
paper and
Brower's formally naming all of them).  Maybe about five of them may
separate species, and therefore both sides of this debate may bear some
responsibility for overexaggeration (claiming species status, either
formally or informally, for at least some of the intraspecific
          -----My two cents worth,
                            Ken Kinman

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