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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Aug 5 16:18:07 CDT 2019


 Jason,I suggest that there are two quite different kinds of cases involved, to be discussed separately:(1) cases where there are distinguishing morphological characters; and (2) cases where there are none.For (1), I would suggest that it is basically the job of the taxonomist to describe those morphological characters, so as to facilitate identification. The present authors appear to have disregarded that task. For (2), I'm interested in what people think. If there are no morphological characters to distinguish between two specimens which differ genetically by, say, 8% (a real example from the present paper), then is this sufficient (and is it necessary in any sense) to describe these as two distinct species? Put aside, for the sake of argument, issues regarding the possibility of samples getting mixed up or contamination of some kind. Might it not be better to simply note the genetic differences until such time as a more intergrative assessment can be made, taking into account bigger sample sizes testing for confirming differences in biology (host, phenology, etc.)? Genetic diversity might well be important to conserve, in general, but I fear that conservation legislation and management requires "official" names for species, so taxonomy may well be being hijacked in order to conserve genetic diversity?Cheers,Stephen
    On Monday, 5 August 2019, 04:59:43 pm UTC, John Grehan via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
 
 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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