[Taxacom] Surely the most "up itself" paper ever!!

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Nov 5 15:45:42 CST 2013

de Carvalho, M.R. et al. 2013: Does counting species count as taxonomy? On misrepresenting systematics, yet again. Cladistics, doi: 10.1111/cla.12045

For once, I find myself siding with Costello, against a bunch of evidently "scientific snobs", who appear to fail to understand the difference between taxonomy and systematics, and who openly belittle taxonomy to a shocking extent!

[Quote]Unintentionally, no doubt, Costello et al. undermine professional taxonomy in museums, institutes, and universities where serious collection-based research is undertaken. Far beyond discovering and naming new species, taxonomy is driven by evolutionary hypotheses that generate predictive classifications and improve our understanding of biotic diversity through meticulous systematic revisions and homology assessments. Conversely, non-specialists may provide species identifications and generate legitimate new species descriptions, and thereby placate growing demand, but the business of “alpha-taxonomy”, while critical to capturing the magnitude of life's diversity, is by itself insufficient to build an information system from which to comprehend evolution. Surely what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; would Costello et al. likewise endorse a deprofessionalizing of ecology simply because amateurs can see that cows eat grass and
 cats eat mice?[unquote]

This is utter crap! Taxonomy is different to systematics, but taxonomy also *is* serious collection-based research, requiring specialists! Taxonomy and systematics have distinct goals and methods. The quote above suggests that *anyone* who does taxonomy without phylogenetic methods is an unprofessional non-specialist! For God's sake ...

If anything, the reality is that many systematists simply don't do a very good job at all at the taxonomic part of their enterprise. They often write shoddy and non Code compliant descriptions which fail to allow even identification of their taxa. These people may not like taxonomy, but to belittle what one doesn't like is very dodgy ground indeed ... 


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