[Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper

Étienne Léveillé-Bourret etienne.leveille-bourret at umontreal.ca
Sat Jun 8 10:51:00 CDT 2013


There is another trend that seems to exist in botany and that would be worth investigating.
Working in a herbarium, one often notices a big difference in the number of plants old botanists used to collect during their field trips compared to the number of plants botanists now collect when in the field. The old botanists were probably interested in having a lot of specimens for exchanges etc.

I bet that if Costello et al. studied this phenomenon, they would find a statistically significant decline in the number of plants collected per taxonomist during the last couple of decades. They would probably suggest that this decline in the number of collected plants per taxonomist, despite the scientists' greater ability to explore and sample the habitats, means that it is getting harder and harder to find plants in the wild... ?!

Or not.


Étienne L.-B.


> From: xelaalex at cox.net
> To: aphodiinaemate at gmail.com; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Date: Sat, 8 Jun 2013 10:58:47 -0400
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper
> 
> All:
> 
> As an older RETIRED taxonomist, I can verify that Jason has hit the mark.
> 
> I know of and have vouchers of some 500 new species of flower flies 
> (Insecta: Diptera: Syrphidae).
> 
> However, today the standards for new species descriptions have greatly 
> increased, but FUNDing for taxonomists has greatly DECREASED. So, those 
> vouchers sit in the collection (Smithsonian/USNM) undescribed as there is no 
> funds to take images of the types and prepare the other now required things. 
> [I recently had a reviewer ask why I did not get a DNA barcode, that is, 
> submit part of the type (a leg) for analysis, etc.)
> 
> Give me just a faction of what these new molecular "systematists" are 
> getting in grants, etc., I could easily clear up my back log of species. 
> Unfortunately, no one wants to fund simply old fashioned ALPHA taxonomy. So 
> the rate of new species descriptions goes down.
> 
> And when studies in Ecology and related sciences need species level 
> identification, one simply gets "species A; B; C; etc.")
> 
> Oh, well ...
> 
> Sincerely,
> 
> Chris
> 
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: JF Mate
> Sent: Saturday, June 08, 2013 8:52 AM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper
> 
> They seem to be taking a leaf out of ECON 101 and developing a taxonomic
> GDP: GTP or Gross Taxonomic Product. It has worked really well for the
> economy so I can imagine all the positive applications for science (akin to
> Impact Factor) for tenure, funding, etc.
> 
> On a more serious note, I wonder if you can compare output across time the
> way they seem to do. Without wanting to stir the proverbial bucket, maybe
> taxonomists are (in general) just gathering more data for each description?
> There is the issue of tidying-up previous work, incorporating phylogenetic
> information into the descriptions (more data gathering plus analysis);
> tracking down types, etc. One only needs to look at descriptions from the
> 60´s to see that you could have fit them in an A5 double spaced, often with
> a single, rather crude illustration. Good luck getting that out nowadays
> and not be laughed out ;)
> 
> Jason
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On 8 June 2013 11:44, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:
> 
> > Costello, M.J.; Wilson, S.; Houlding, B. 2013: More taxonomists describing
> > significantly fewer species per unit effort may indicate that most species
> > have been discovered. Systematic biology, doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syt024
> >
> > This seems to be "all over the place" - as per usual ...
> >
> > Stephen
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