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problems with burbink's paper - from a cursory glance


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Posted by troy h on December 05, 2002 at 08:28:19:

In Reply to: New Snake Discovered in the U.S. posted by TW Taggart on November 23, 2002 at 18:40:41:

i just rec'd a copy of burbink's elaphe guttata paper (as well as the elaphe obsoleta paper). i have yet had time to read over it in its entirety, but a cursory glance shows several glaring flaws:

1) he shows "Elaphe slowinski" to be allopatric from "E. emoryi". This is simply not true. I have no way of knowing if this error is intentional, or if it represents sloppy research, but a quick glance at Dixon's "Reptiles & Amphibians of Texas" or Dixon & Werler's "snake of Texas" will show specimens bridging this gap. I personally have photos of specimens from within Burbink's gap, and know of many others in major museum collections (TCWC and UTACV).

2) Like previous workers, Burbink does not examine specimens of similar phenotype from eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, or Illinois. He does allude to "similar specimens from southern Arkansas" but says they are probably "an isolated population of 'E. slowinskii'" - again, this represents sloppy research, as there are numerous museum specimens from OK and Ark available (at UTACV, for one) . . . furthermore, he does not sample any of these populations when making his comparisons between emoryi and "slowinskii". While I've not seen specimens from Missouri or Illinois, photographs that I have seen (e.g. in the Snakes of Illiniois) conform with the general phenotype of "slowinskii"

3) finally, Burbink continues to follow Collin's assumption (CNAH) that Vaughan, Dixon, and Thomas "clearly show allopatry" when an unbiased reading of their paper clearly indicates otherwise. In fact, Vaughan (pers comm) says that their data show a clear intergrade zone between what they call "brown phase of the cornsnake" (i.e. "slowinskii") and emoryi in the vicinity of College Station (and along a line to the north and south).

If a cursory glance reveals these flaws, then one can only imagine the problems a critical reading of the paper will bring to light.

Troy


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