[Taxacom] Does the species name have to change when it moves genus?

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Tue Jun 19 04:41:53 CDT 2012

Rod Page wrote:

"I regard taxonomic names as essentially tags on sets of things (e.g., specimens, observations), and given the rate at which observations are being generated we will have lots of data not attached not to a name but to a specimen. Thats where I was going with this."

I see that happening now, and I don't think it's a problem unless the observation-generators want to go way beyond their results. If I do a plankton sweep, mush the catch and get a spectrum of (say) 28s, I might be able to say something intelligent about how that plankton sweep differed from another in some other place. But not a lot. And if I said something like 'dominated by chaetognaths' based on 28s, I'd better have done whole-animal counts on at least a subsample of the sweep. The first claim would be based on inference, while the second route takes me to the facts.

Same with blind barcoding in a tropical forest. 'I caught a something and the libraries say it was a fly closely related to X but in fact a new species.' Repeat that with another specimen, and repeat that, and repeat that. What have you learned?

The observations you see being generated which aren't attached to names have very limited usefulness. Hand them over to taxonomists, together with the vouchers, and we'll tell you more, often a lot more, because taxonomists are usually taxon specialists who know a great deal about the taxon. We aren't replaceable.

And please go easy on the hyperbole.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Agricultural Science, 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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