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

Neal Evenhuis neale at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Jul 25 16:52:30 CDT 2019

Almost 10 years ago, Andy Brower described 10 species of skipper butterflies based on DNA.

His paper was cleverly written as a caution to others and I recommend it be read (or read again for those who have already done so)*.

From his paper: “ ... if phenetically clustered mtDNA sequences represent the future currency of biodiversity informatics, then nomenclature (and systematics) will become largely superfluous. Biodiversity will be parsed according to a phenetic algorithm that ignores homoplasy and symplesiomorphy, and recognizes ‘species’ on the basis of a few nucleotide differences in a single gene region.”

* Paywall problem? Go here: http://bit.ly/2GvhIYp

From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> on behalf of taxacom <TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU<mailto:TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU>>
Reply-To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz<mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>>
Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 11:28 AM
To: taxacom <TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU<mailto:TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU>>, Kirk Fitzhugh <kfitzhugh at nhm.org<mailto:kfitzhugh at nhm.org>>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] OMG! DNA only descriptions (with one habitus photo)!

One of my main worries with this approach is that it seems pretty obvious that they are basing their judgements of species distinctions on a cursory and superficial morphological examination and then assuming that the associated DNA profiles define species! Obviously, however, every individual organism has a different DNA profile, and I doubt that any categorical genetic genetic distance between species applies across the board, so, when all said and done, all we have here is one photo of possibly limited diagnostic value and a DNA sequence for that same individual! This is not taxonomy as we know it! They should have known that DNA really stands for Do Not Attempt!
    On Thursday, 25 July 2019, 08:19:46 pm UTC, Kirk Fitzhugh via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> wrote:
Revolutionary? Not at all. Especially given the largely toothless opinions
regarding species and taxa overall that permeate biology. This is just
another instance of technology driving science at the expense of the
established principles upon which science is supposed to be based.

On Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 12:51 PM Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> wrote:


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Nurturing nuance while assaulting ambiguity for 32 some years, 1987-2019.

J. Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D.
Curator of Polychaetes
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