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The burden of evidence...


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Posted by WW on January 21, 2003 at 03:19:48:

In Reply to: Re: collins list question posted by TTaggart on January 20, 2003 at 13:16:39:

.. is on those who seek to change the widely accepted status quo (where there is one). Nomenclature is not just a toy for systematists, it affects all users. Nothing puts systematics into more disrepute among the non-taxonomy community than changing names solely for dogma and/or ego-related reasons (and somehow, the two often go together...), without an appropriate level of evidence.

:I too would agree, that the 1991 Collins paper (in which he followed Frost and Hillis' recommendation, that properly diagnosed allopatric subspecies should be recognized as species under the Ed Wiley emendation of the ESC), does not constitute a peer-reviewed publication.

:However, your question, with respect to Elaphe emoryi, is not applicable. Elaphe emoryi was diagnosed at the specific level [Scotophis emoryi] in its original description (= first usage). (Baird & Girard (1853) Cat. North Am. Rept. Mus. Smiths. Inst. 1. Serpents. p. 157).

However, the long-standing and widely accepted status quo is that it was considered a ssp. of E. guttata. Simply rattling off a list of names of ssp., and elevating them to species level without carefully considering evidence other than coarse distribution maps does not constitute shouldering that burden of evidence. I seem to recall an Australian pair by the names of Wells & Wellington doing this sort of thing, and catching a lot of flak over it.

:Your assertion that 'no biological data' existed for Collins to make the proposals he did in the 1991 paper, simply ignores the fact that each of those taxa in his list, were properly diagnosed species or subspecies already. Those data already existed.

From my experience, I would argue strongly that a large proportion of the world's described subspecies are deeply flawed, or their original diagnosis was. Elevating these to species level without reviewing the evidence does absolutely nothing to enhance our understanding of the systematics of these taxa.

Cheers,

Wolfgang



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