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

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sat Jul 27 14:20:25 CDT 2019

Possibly SAMPLING is the key to resolving this problem. I've got a book on sampling that requires a huge number of samples to get a true idea of variation, but this is when nothing much is known about a group and the group the group is in.

We usually know enough to be able to describe a species from a single specimen if we know that related species have little variation, and by extension, so might the new one. Sampling then depends in part on context.

We sample taxa. Only the most dedicated monographer looks at every specimen. We sample to get a handle on the features of a species. What features? The ones important for other scientists, which nowadays means ecology, evolution, population biology, and the like. Barcoding is unhelpful. Describing in detail every species in a speciose group can be overkill. 

In an era of existential calamity, in my opinion, we want good information to help us deal with evolvability, adaptation, and change of environment without collapse. Relentless taxonomy is useless without those who interpret our product. We need some sort of contract or deal with ecologists and environmentalists that makes the most of what we taxonomists can do in the next 50 years. 30 years? 20 years?

Take any speciose group. What trends or principles are involved in its evolution, what species die off and what are the correlates if any, what species generate biotypes and descendant species galore, what species are truly different...?  What are the questions you think might be asked of your area of expertise that might incrementally help humans make amends for their hubris? A good revision can provide abundant material for evolutionary and environmental theory. Have you any theories about evolution past and future in your group? 

Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden – 4344 Shaw Blvd. – St. Louis – Missouri – 63110 – USA
richard.zander at mobot.org Ofc: +1 314 577-0276
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ 

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