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Re: "A Worrying Systematic Decline" by Lee



At 09:09 PM 25/09/00 -0700, Jaime A. Headden wrote:
  In the latest issue of _Trends in Ecology and
Evolution_, Michael Lee takes issue with several
annoying popularizations in paleontology, including
selling off of rights to name taxa for funding,
traditional morphological taxonomy being supplanted by
molecular taxonomy (at least in organisms where you
can choose) including recent increases in new journals
focusing on molecules outweighing those of
morphology....

Might I suggest, without having read the paper, that Lee may be protesting a bit too much? On the subject of molecular taxonomy I have my own doubts, mostly because it seems so difficult to confirm or test the results (though that may well be my ignorance talking), but is Lee at all motivated by the fact that two different molecular studies have directly contradicted his view that turtles are derived from pareiasaurs? (Mind you, after a talk last week with Dr Robert Reisz on this point I came away with the distinct possibility that both Lee and the molecular types may be wrong).


On the subject of selling rights to names, I suggest that this is part of a long tradition of honouring patrons; I can think of plenty of examples of animals named after royalty or aristocrats in the last century whose only claim to the distinction probably was that they forked out cash to support the researcher, or were considered good touches. Actually, for living animals this sort of thing can be highly beneficial. A recently-discovered species of vireo (a small bird from Colombia), Vireo masteri, was named for a gentleman who ponied up a considerable sum to Birdlife International to be used directly to support conservation of the species' habitat. If naming an animal after a donor can help ensure its conservation, I'm all for it.


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Ronald I. Orenstein Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
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