[Taxacom] seeing groups and behaviors (again)

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Dec 1 13:24:00 CST 2013

Though a taxonomist can work quite effectively with just dead museum specimens, and does not have to venture out into the field

From: Ken Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Monday, 2 December 2013 3:39 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] seeing groups and behaviors (again)

Rich wrote:
"But the gap between (what we perceive as) matter, and what we construe as
concepts (circumscriptions of sets of organisms with perceived similarity of
character, and from which infer phylogenetic affinity) -- is a pretty big
gap. My response to Ken's post was concerning that gap."
Hi all,
      I'll try once again to steer this discussion toward how we can see more than just individuals, but also see groups of those individuals and their behaviors (especially reproductive behaviors).  The cohesiveness of such groups is particularly obvious in huge groups, like the massive emergence of periodic cicadas, or huge flocks of birds (like the passenger pigeon once formed), or massive herds of wildebeests (like we also once saw with American bison).  In such cases, one can easily see the cohesiveness of these species and even observe that they only mate with one another.  "Birds of a feather" not only flock together, but reproduce together.  This makes recognizing species relatively easy in such cases.  

      However, there is a large gap between recognizing a species (a LINEAGE of INDIVIDUALS) and higher ranks (LINEAGES of SPECIES).  To me that gap is just as large as the gap between perceiving individuals (with ones eyes) and perceiving species cohesiveness in mass groups (with one's brain).  Recognizing the cohesiveness of a species of periodic cicada is quite easy, but grouping it into a genus (a lineage of species) is not.  

      And thus I still think that the gap between species and higher ranked taxa is considerable and makes the rank of species special.  That is why most people (non-biologist and biologists alike) treat it as special.  And it is even more special because of Rich's gap between physically seeing groups of individuals and forming the concept that they belong to a single cohesive species.  We agree on that, but I also see an important gap between species (lineages of individuals) and higher taxa (lineages of species).    

                          ------------------Ken Kinman

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