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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sat Jul 27 17:39:20 CDT 2019

 Thomas,I didn't say that T has to be interpreted as a symbol for thymine, just that it can reasonably be so interpreted, i.e. there is "wiggle room" to invalidate the work based on lack of descriptions/diagnoses in words. It is entirely ambiguous between symbol or abbreviation, so the availability of the work is entirely ambiguous. Such ambiguity requires a ruling one way or the other (if there is significant disagreement within the taxonomic community on this point, which there may or may not turn out to be). Also, I assume that the journal DEZ still prints hard copy, but if not then the work is unavailable e-only due to the lack of a specified archive on ZooBank.I comes as no surprise to me that the commission is prepared to allow this sort of DNA only pseudo-taxonomy, as they will be more concerned with the politics of not getting off-side with any significant sector of the broadly taxonomic community. Personally, I relegate to the rubbish bin any work which erects new taxa on the basis of*, e.g. "Many specimens of this species were originally identified as Zelomorpha arizonensis by MJS based on morphology. However, p-distances between Z. arizonensis and Z. angelsolisi are greater than 8%", and which fails to even mention a very relevant article from earlier in the year by the same authors, i.e. https://www.mapress.com/j/zt/article/view/zootaxa.4565.1.11Cheers,Stephen
*The best approach here would have been to simply state that some morphologically indistinguishable specimens of Z. arizonensis have been found to have p-distances up to 8% different from others, which may indicate a cryptic species complex, requiring further research.
    On Saturday, 27 July 2019, 07:20:39 pm UTC, Richard Zander via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
 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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