January 29, 2012
Taxonomic inflation and the poverty of the Phylogenetic Species Concept – a reply to Gippoliti and Groves (2013)
Open access: http://www.italian-journal-of-.....9/pdf_8849
This is not about ichthyology directly, however appliciable to a species concept often used in ichthyology, which I think makes for a nice read.
December 5, 2012
My experience on a few large scale projects dealing with micro-organisms suggests me that sometimes "species" are sometimes more artifacts of sampling, than real biological entities. The more information one can gain about a natural populations of micro-organism (through hight-hroughput metagenomics for example), the more "intermediate" forms can be found, which make less clear the delineation between existing taxa, but not all! Considering upper taxa (e.g fishes), the situation is certainly complicated by the fact that the actual populations are often reduced and that their potential habitats are already seriously reduced.
From another point of view, there is also an obvious political dimension to this issue. It is much more easy to convince a politician to preserve a "unique endemic species found only at a given location in the country" instead of preserving a species that is retrieved "almost identically" in the surrounding countries. I believe that the current trend in taxonomy is also supported by some non-scientific, but certainly noble motivations.
July 17, 2012
the paper mentioned above is part of a discussion about 'taxonomic inflation' (see http://www.italian-journal-of-.....1/pdf_8881 for a reply to Zachos and Lovari).
I do not think that it is the (poverty) Phylogenetic Species Concept which is forcing the 'inflation'. It is just 'bad' taxonomy. The paper cited above criticized the taxonomic treatment of Ungulate species taxa by Groves & Grubb,. The taxonomic decision in Groves & Grubb based often on a low number of specimens (< 10 specimens or even limited to a single specimen). Heller et al. (2013) are given the illustrative example of the Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus). Currently it is considered as one species,but Groves & Grubb have split it into 11 species just on minor differences in the states of the pelage (the variation within each of these species greater than between them) and in length of the horns. The horn length ranges given for the concerned species are 89–109 mm (n=2), 72.5–100.0 mm (n=7), and 82.5–87.0 mm (n=4). The overlap makes the horn length unusable as a diagnostic character, and no other justification for splitting are provided. There is a huge number of similar 'bad' cases in ichthyology too. A current most curious example is P. kempkesi. The author of this taxon not even examined type specimens.
Taxonomic inflation is not only a serious threat for the length of the list of synonyms but also for conservation (Agapow et al. 2004). The insatiable desire to name new species is part of this unfortunate habit.
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