[Taxacom] Taxacom Digest, Vol 134, Issue 2

Hinrich Kaiser chalcopis at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 2 12:49:40 CDT 2017

Dear Colleagues,
I find myself in agreement with Mike and Scott (whose messages are still below), but perhaps our focus needs to shift away from the concepts of species or the ways to classify organisms to the application of taxonomy by end users. Maybe the following comments help.
As someone, who has recently been quite involved in issues dealing with rogue taxonomy and the resulting nomenclature (in herpetology), as well as with the use of photographs in species descriptions under extreme circumstances, I see once again the critical need to establish some form of best practices - not for how to do taxonomy, but for how to *communicate* taxonomy to end-users. Taxonomic disciplines are currently disparate in their approaches to this, which is scientifically justifiable and which is why there are different Codes to govern nomenclature. In our respective niches, we do the best we can in terms of seeking and producing true statements about the organisms we study, but it appears from the misunderstandings in that paper that we haven't done a good enough job to allow our data to properly inform decisions that need to be made by others - whether they are ecologists, conservationists, or legislators.
I would welcome a finely crafted rebuttal that corrects the misperceptions in the paper but encourages dialog, in order to create a positive and productive atmosphere and a departure point. Let's admit some of the shortcomings of how we do business, but let's also state unequivocally that a legalistic framework for taxonomy will never work and violates our freedom of thought. I would be very happy to contribute to such a measured response.
Moreover, I think that we could take this article as a prod (perhaps more like a taze) to combine forces and produce a universally acceptable set of best practices. We have CITES as a basis, and we need to connect those of us who work on alpha taxonomy and phylogenetics through CITES to law enforcement and legislators. This is a broad approach, but I believe a necessary one. We thought we were doing things right, but it appears we are not.

Hinrich Kaiser PhD FLS
Professor of Biology, Victor Valley College
Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History
Editor-in-Chief, Herpetology Notes
PeaceJam Representative of Nobel Peace Laureate José Ramos-HortaMember, Int. Advisory Board, Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
Member, Advisory Council, Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra

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Message: 23
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2017 08:52:24 -0600
From: "Michael A. Ivie" <mivie at montana.edu>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy
Message-ID: <fae2e7c7-d6d9-92ff-3fb7-26ed012fc73c at montana.edu>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8; format=flowed

All of this is simple to fix -- the Nature paper authors simply do not 
get it, and our community is over thinking the response. When 
legislation is enacted, it should simply specify the paper whose 
classification is followed. Then, if the classification changes, the law 
still applies to the taxon sensu the cited work. This is not brain 
surgery, folks!



Message: 27
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2017 13:54:50 -0300
From: Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Taxonomy Anarchy
    <CADRwqwhhwv1O3vzq6a9OzNVYRkL0H=N_XWjr+fHgg14jxA8G7Q at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"

A couple of points on this.

Although in theory a species should not loose protection status if
nomenclature changes the reality can be different depending on the
structure of the legislation in a given country. Conservation is always a
big issue in turtles, which I work with, and with 63% of the order
vulnerable or worse it tends to be a big issue.  In a number of countries
they do not recognise invalid names for taxa and species are listed by
their valid name as an Act of Government, not available names. Changing
legislation takes Acts of Government and this can take 2 or more years to
accomplish. Up to 10 years in some countries. I agree that it would be good
if this legislation listed taxa by their name at the time as suggested, but
to do this also requires a change to the legislation which is also an Act
of Government. Another issue is when they change their taxonomic level, eg
species become subspecies is a particular issue. Under CITES legislation,
which is the Country level protection that enacts the CITES agreement, a
subspecies inherits its protection from the valid parent species, this
means if a CITES species becomes a subspecies of a non-cites species it
looses CITES protection. When the nomenclature changes some countries
reserve the right to reassess the necessity for protection (Malaysia for
example) and as such yet again nomenclature can cause a species to loose or
at least temporarily loose its status, ie about 10 years. I am against the
proposals in the Nature paper and agree it needs to be addressed but
stating that species should not loose their protection due to changes in
taxonomy may be desirable but is not the reality.

With the benefit of hindsight it would have been better if taxonomists had
been involved in the development of legislation for species protection,
clearly conservationists do not understand taxonomy and consider it a tool
for their purposes which to them should be creating stable names for
organisms, the reality is different of course. Unfortunately taxonomists do
not become involved in species legislation. I do this, but I acknowledge
its probably because I work with a highly endangered group. I am a member
of the IUCN and work directly with those who develop both the RedList and
the CITES lists.

I think what we need to do is address the points of the Nature article and
explain the reality of the science of taxonomy. We should limit our
response to that which is relevant to the concerns of the conservationists
and has been brought up by the authors. Obviously their proposal in
untenable and I doubt they realise why it is. I have often said to people
including on this list that taxonomists do need to remember that we are not
only the only people who use nomenclature but we are a small subset of
those who do. Papers like this Nature paper are why I try to remind people
of this.

I would like to be a part of a refutation of this paper, I think that is
needed, but I think we will serve ourselves better if we do this in a way
to open communication with conservationists.

Cheers, Scott


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