[Taxacom] OMG! DNA only descriptions (with one habitus photo)!

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Mon Aug 5 11:58:53 CDT 2019


Jason - nice summary of the issues and complexities. It was helpful to me.

John Grehan

On Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 6:41 AM JF Mate via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

> I have been following the discussion which has been highly informative
> save for a couple of rabbit-holes that have sapped the force of the
> discussion. I think everybody or at least the majority of the posters
> in Taxacom and beyond can agree with your desire for accelerated
> approaches to taxonomy, but that is not the crux of the criticisms.
> Longino, Redei, Fernández-Triana and others have all provided highly
> constructive criticism regarding the issues with this paper and how it
> impacts its utility in tackling the taxonomic impediment. I would add
> that this form of iBOL centered taxonomy is essentially destabilizing
> to systematics by cutting-off the past, creating information
> "gate-keepers" and through taxonomic inflation.
>
> As they have clearly stated, not acknowledging previous work severely
> reduces the utility of this work. This is particularly eggregious when
> the authors state that "Type specimens of all previously described
> Zelomorpha and Hemichoma species were examined by MJS and his notes
> were used to verify that Z. arizonensis is the sole previously
> described species in the genus." It is inexplicable that this was not
> used in this paper so as to connect both data sources through a key at
> least to species´ groups.  Furtherrmore, the same lab produced, via
> one of its PhD students a revision of the genus ( "TAXONOMIC REVISION
> OF Zelomorpha ASHMEAD, 1900 AND Hemichoma ENDERLEIN, 1920 (BRACONIDAE:
> AGATHIDINAE) WITH A PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSIS OF COLOR PATTERNS") in 2006.
> At the very least the key should have been incorporated.
>
> This omission (and lack of morphological information) effectively
> creates an accessibility filter. Since taxonomy is the first step in
> biology, any restriction to its access creates a major impediment, and
> sequencing as the only means of identification is a barrier to many
> (most) of the potential users who will may not be inclined or have
> access to the necessary equipment to PCR their daily collection.
> Further, the dearth of pictures is surprising. I am not familiar with
> braconid identification but I would be surprised if one picture was
> enough to ensure accurate identification and this just compounds the
> problem.
>
> Finally, regarding inflation, this paper appears to be creating a
> parallel taxonomy dissociated from past information and from proper
> testing. The claim that the "COI barcode approach ... allows species
> hypotheses to be posited and data accumulated by employing clear and
> reproducible methods." in the absence of other sources of data can
> only be interpreted as iBOLD taxonomy by default and conflates
> precision and accuracy. Barcoding might yield always the same sequence
> but that doesn´t mean it is actually measuring what you think. That is
> why the statement that  "Barcode-based descriptions are more accurate
> than morphological descriptions, especially when dealing with diverse,
> understudied taxa." is a play in words. In the absence of other data
> to robustly test these hypotheses it is impossible to know how
> accurate a particular method is, in particular when it is based on a
> snippet of a gene know to have variable quality depending on the
> group. This is likely to further saturate the field with synonyms and
> slow rather than enhance description rates. It will also generate a
> plethora of suspect species´ hypotheses of dubious quality that can´t
> be checked for robustness and which may hurt other fields like
> conservation or ecology (even if they could overcome the other two
> problems) not to mention the already batteredd image of taxonomy.
>
> Best
>
> Jason
>
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, 30 Jul 2019 at 23:27, Zimmermann Dominique via Taxacom
> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:
> >
> > Dear colleagues,
> >
> > I have been following the discussion. I think the question addressed in
> the manuscript is an important one: being faced with species numbers
> several times as high as the number of currently described ones, what can
> we do to approach it in a faster though efficient way and make it
> "nameable" for other studies, specifically in hyperdiverse and
> underexplored taxa. The question is, what is the minimum we can agree upon.
> Or is it unnecessary to explore new approaches, trying to approximate an
> inventory of life in a foreseeable period?
> > As the editor of the journal I of course invite any reply to this
> publication, but I think it would be best for the cause to really address
> this very question.
> >
> > Kind regards,
> > Dominique
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