[Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper

Dilrukshan Wijesinghe dpwijesinghe at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 9 09:17:50 CDT 2013


This has been an interesting discussion. As Chris Thompson indicated, the great embarassment in taxonomy is the large amount of unstudied material that exists in various natural history museums. As another hoverfly specialist said to me "Unfortunately, there are fewer people - and less appetite - for writing up results of collecting trips than for collecting trips themselves!"

There is not doubt that, for many groups, further sampling in poorly collected areas using specialized collecting methods will yield many new taxa, but for some parts of the world further collecting may simply not be possible any longer. See, for example, this post on an email list devoted to the taxonomy of Sri Lankan animals:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/faunasrilanka/message/69

Regarding this situation see especially this:

Pethiyagoda, R., Gunatilleke, N., de Silva, M., Kotagama, S., Gunatilleke, S., de Silva, P., Meegaskumbura, M., Fernando, P., Ratnayeke, S., Jayawardene, J., Raheem, D., Benjamin, S. & Ilangakoon, A. 2007. Science and biodiversity: the predicament of Sri Lanka. Current Science (Bangalore) 92(4): 426-427. [http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/feb252007/426.pdf]

To return to hoverflies (flower flies): In spite of the availability of significant material from Sri Lanka (e.g. Lund University Ceylon Expedition 1962 - see Brinck et al. 1971; Smithsonian Insect Project in Sri Lanka - see Krombein, 1981) I don't think any of it has been included in publications and there is certainly no recent faunistic account of the Syrphidae of Sri Lanka.

Brinck, P., Andersson, H. & Cederholm, L. 1971. Introduction [to Reports from the Lund University Ceylon Expedition 1962]. Entomologica Scandinavica Supplement 1: IV-XXXVI.

Krombein, K.V. 1981 ('1980'). The Smithsonian insect project in Sri Lanka. Spolia Zeylanica 35: 119-135.

It seems to me a huge tragedy that, while habitats continue to be destroyed, especially in the tropics, significant material that could document the biodiversity of those areas continue to lie unstudied in the major natural history museums of the world.

Priyantha

 
D. P. Wijesinghe
dpwijesinghe at yahoo.com



________________________________
 From: Chris Thompson <xelaalex at cox.net>
To: JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com>; Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 10:58 AM
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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