James Wood
Sun, 03 Feb 2013 19:04:42 PST
Keep in mind that while species seem to be nice little black and white
boxes that we humans are taught in school to "bin" things into - the real
world is much more complicated.  Molecular data adds a new and powerful
tool but there are rarely purely objective and quantitative robot like
decisions in taxonomy.  Some genes evolve faster than other, some cause
changes in phenoptype that are clearly visible while others do not, some
groups are studied by scientists that are more likely to split species
while other groups are studied by lumpers - and most groups are vastly
under studied.

If you really want to be as objective as possible and to remove as much of
the human factor form the decisions, you can go with
purely quantitative models and drop the species names completely.  Instead
you could just use numbers representing how related or not species are (or
are not).  While this approach may be more accurate, it has some
serious disadvantages, especially for hobbyists.   For one, in its purest
form, there are no species names to hang you hat on' that makes just
talking to each other hard.  Two, every time there is new data, or even old
data weighted a different way, or any sort of change in the data from any
scientist anywhere in the world, the model changes. . .

The more I've learned about Taxonomy, the more I realize that it is a human
invention and that molecular tools while powerful, do not solve the "what
is a species?" questions.

James B. Wood  Ph.D.
Webmaster of The Cephalopod Page
Co-author: "Octopus - The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate"

 "Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to
resources currently controlled."

More information about the pbs mailing list