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Queries answered and more

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Posted by Raymond Hoser on February 27, 2002 at 16:19:36:

In Reply to: Amature thoughs on Herp- and taxonomic papers in general posted by Wulf Schleip on February 27, 2002 at 03:18:51:

Wulf, here's a few more thoughts from here.
1/ Just so you know, I did study at Sydney Uni (2/3 of a Science degree) and then stopped when NPWS officials in Sydney lent on lecturerers to force me out of uni due to my onging battles with them.
Times and events made me never finish.
As it happened, by 2nd year Uni we were still only up to underlining (italicising) scientific names (learning to do this), which gives you an idea as to how basic it was.
You see the Uni course had to assume the intake was dumb and stupid and knew nothing - absoultely nothing, which as it turned out was true.
the reality is that any half-trained private keeper of several years experience would in many cases run rings around many a so-called "professional".
Even my adversary WW wrote once that there is really little differntiation or distinction between "amatuer" and "professional" and that the line is blurred (words to that effect), which is one of the few things I agree with him on.
2/ Yes the journals like Copeia, etc are v-expensive and out of reach for most individuals. Even most instkitutions don't subscribe to the lot, but get what is mostly relevant to them (or so they think), with individual scientists working heavily on reprints from co-workers and others to fill the subscription void. By way of example Copiea is half fish and most of us have no interest in them, so it isn't high on the subs list for herpers. And even a straight herp journal often has articles of little interest to a given herper.
However you will find that most major institutions within a country have a database of library and institution holdings of such publications and this allows you to chase up a given publication. The internet has also made it far easier to directly chase up a given person (incl. academic) to source reprints direct and most are v-helpful.
From an Aussie perspective, I find it rare to be given the run-around by people in instiutions when seeking a given publication or extract and even the NSW NPWS 9My long time foe) advertise their extensive library holdings as being publicly accessible via their own internet site. And also I'm always onto them for bits and pieces of journals and most librarians in some of these places know me on a first name basis. Occasionally I have to go outside Australia just to get a publication as I once did for Mertensiella (the Monitor issue), which I think I'm still the only place in Australia with (but stand to be corrected if wrong).
3/ Yes, you are correct, while the hobbyists may not in the main decide acceptance of names, their publications do ultimately reflect the prevailing consensus higher up the pecking order.
4/ Your comments to the effect that some names are adopted quicker than others and/or in spite of others, often due to the name of the author is true and of note. If it is because of the merits of the paper and the descriptions, that is fine, however if it is because of personal politics or whatever and not because of the contents of the paper, it is not fine.
I have said before (and now), that everyone and their work from top to bottom of the pecking order shoukld be scrutinized on it's merits and not because of any preconceived ideas.
5/ Finally, you will find it impossible to ever completely keep up with the current status of taxonomy because it is dynamic and subject to change as new information becomes available and/or opinions change. Also there will always be dissent (in some cases) even when the facts are agreed by the various parties (as in what we see with Chondropython/Morelia, where the argument appears to hinge more on the definition of a genus with regards to pythons, rather than in terms of the relationships between the species of snakes themselves.
Happy herping

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