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Posted by troy h on December 10, 2002 at 12:00:43:
i think that everyone agrees that the taxonomic category "subspecies" has been overused in classification to describe arbitrarily defined slices of clinal variation.
however, today's rush to either dump subspecies or elevate them to full species does not make matters any clearer!
i have found the following criteria to me useful in deciding if a particular subspecies is valid or not:
1) the variation in pattern or scalation must be tied to geography - you can't have two subspecies living in the same place (plant taxononists do this all the time, btw)
2) intergrade zones must be narrow (geographically) and tied to changes in geography or vegetation
3) intergrade (intermediate) specimens must be common in the intergrade zone. if intermediates are rare, you're probably talking two species & a hybrid zone.
also, i think that there are a decent number of valid subspecies that need to be redefined to fit my (LOL) criteria so that their descriptions reflect the real world.