[Taxacom] describing new species

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Dec 18 18:53:52 CST 2012

When are people going to get it that you cannot estimate numbers of species left to describe using data from taxonomic history? Fewer new species described per annum does not result just from fewer species left to describe, but from all sorts of factors to do with the changing face of science and funding ...
Strictly speaking, however, both findings below are consistent with one another if the number of genera with 50% coverage is low compared to the total number of genera ...

From: Barry Roth <barry_roth at yahoo.com>
To: "Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 1:37 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] describing new species

Earlier this year, a meeting abstract (with an in extenso publication to follow, I presume) estimated, based on a sort of rarefaction curve of new species publications over recent decades, that the terrestrial mollusk fauna of North America north of Mexico has been almost entirely described.  At the same time, at another meeting, I was presenting evidence that in several genera in the part of the continent I work on most closely, slightly over 50% of the recognizable species have not yet been formally published.  The disconnect between these two sets of results speaks worlds about the need to get fresh findings into print.  (And, I'm afraid, about my own failure to move heaven and earth and get all these critters into print.)
I'm certain my situation is not unique, and as Peter states below, not new at all.
From: Peter Rauch <peterr at berkeley.edu>
To: Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2:11 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] describing new species

Is it true that by and large new species (of insects) tend to be rare in nature and/or in out of the way places ?
(I didn't think that this was close to being true ?)

How would one know whether the specimen in hand was one of the 20 known species detailed in the Journal key, and not either a new species which is indistinguishable by the given key, and/or is "the other sex" of a known species (but not completely known by life form, geographic distribution, etc) ?

The job of insect discovery, detailing, and understanding hasn't even begun, were we to ask about the state of our ecological knowledge, our biodiversity knowledge, whether we need screamingly larger amounts of resources to make those discoveries, and to have them then become useful information for managing our Earth.

This is a story not one iota different from what some of us stated in Taxacom twenty years ago.  So, as Chris pondered, who cares --then or now ?


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