[Taxacom] Are ANY species "real"? (was: Are bacterial species real? (was: Can botanical family names....))

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Aug 25 20:25:41 CDT 2017

But maybe let’s not go there…  ;-) [see Subject line]


Subject line aside, my understanding is that within the Prokaryote world, a better unit than “species” is “gene”, as there is a more manageable number of the latter, and the units of the former are really just packaged collections of the latter.  But I’m certainly no expert.


From: Kenneth Kinman [mailto:kinman at hotmail.com] 
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2017 3:21 PM
To: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Cc: 'taxacom'
Subject: Are bacterial species real? (was: Can botanical family names....)


Lynn Margulis certainly did not believe in prokaryotic species.  In a 2006 article (see weblink below), she said:  "If you put a particular plasmid into E. coli, all of a sudden you have Klebsiella and not E. coli.  You've changed not only the species, but the genus."


 <http://www.astrobio.net/origin-and-evolution-of-life/bacteria-dont-have-species/> http://www.astrobio.net/origin-and-evolution-of-life/bacteria-dont-have-species/

 <http://www.astrobio.net/origin-and-evolution-of-life/bacteria-dont-have-species/> Bacteria Don't Have Species - Astrobiology Magazine

 <http://www.astrobio.net> www.astrobio.net

Astrobiology Magazine: You have argued that bacteria don’t have species. I wonder if you could explain that idea. Lynn Margulis: Bacteria are much more of a continuum.



From: Taxacom < <mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of Richard Pyle < <mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2017 5:25 PM
To: 'Paul Kirk'; 'Tony Rees'; 'John McNeill'
Cc: 'John McNeill'; 'taxacom'
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Can botanical family names be based on a rejected genus name? 


Wow!  Is anyone with access to the full PDF willing to send me a copy?  

One of my biggest complaints about all the various "estimated total species of life on Earth" publications is that they often loosely refer to "species of life on Earth", but then in the fine print somewhere make some reference to something along the lines of "Oh, but Prokaryotes aren't really part of our analysis 'cause we're not sure what's going on with them, but there's probably a bunch of them too" (paraphrasing here, of course).  

What caught my attention about the abstract that Paul just forwarded was partially the "1 to 6 billion" bit; but actually more interesting was the 70-90% bacteria bit.  While I might be a little hesitant to accept the ~300-600 million non-bacteria (Really? Yeah, there are definitely a bunch of mites and nematodes and fungi and protists and stuff, but people thought Terry Erwin was crazy at ~100M total....) -- I'm much more intrigued by the 70-90% proportional estimate.  Obviously, we have a hard enough time defining what we mean by "species" within even well-known groups like birds and fishes; trying to establish a notion of "species" that would be harmonious among both Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is probably best left to those who like to count angels on the head of a pin. But still... I'd love to see the full paper to see how they came up with their numbers, and especially how they establish a working definition of "species" that applies across all life.  

Taken to the extreme, one could argue there are ~7.5 billion species of what we now refer to as "Homo sapiens L." (subtracting out the identical twins, of course).  I'm increasingly convinced that the continuum between that "splitter" extreme and the other "lumper" extreme (i.e., one global species encompassing everything) is a lot smoother than most people feel comfortable admitting, and that some sort of universal inflection point along this continuum that we can point to and declare (semi-objectively) "Species!" will not likely be found even within the well-known groups, let alone across the entire spectrum of stuff we call "life". But I digress.

Yes, I realize this was an overly soap-boxy pontification to simply ask "Hey, can anyone send me the PDF?"  But I had ten minutes to kill, so I succumbed to my more primal taxonosophical tendencies.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator | Associate Zoologist | Dive Safety Officer
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817-2704
Office: (808) 848-4115;  Fax: (808) 847-8252
eMail:  <mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

Our Mission: Bishop Museum inspires our community and visitors through the exploration and celebration of the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [ <mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf
> Of Paul Kirk
> Sent: Friday, August 25, 2017 11:17 AM
> To: Tony Rees; John McNeill
> Cc: John McNeill; taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Can botanical family names be based on a rejected
> genus name?
> With at least 1 billion species to name:
>  <http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/693564> http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/693564
> I think we need to stop discussing these 'non-homonyms' 😉
> Have a good weekend,
> the other Paul

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