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Re: worrying decline

>Selling of scientific names is a fine tightrope to walk, some researchers
>have been forced to do so. It is symptomatic of a greater problem.
>Traditional taxonomy has been replaced by the menace of cladistics (a
>useful adjunct to taxonomy, but no more!), which has diverted research
>funding away from primary taxonomy towards the number crunchers.
>The number of journals filled with recycled, unhelpful cladistic analyses
>is more worrying.

I'm sorry, but I disagree.  The trend I'm seeing is toward morphological
cladistic analyses that rely on museum collections rather than the
(untrustworthy) literature, and more often these days new analyses
accompany new taxon descriptions or, sometimes, redescriptions of
previously described taxa.

One thing I've noticed as associate editor of JVP is that reviewers are
growing less patient with phylogenetic analyses that do not address the
specimens themselves, and which instead code taxa from publications.  This
is being viewed increasingly as unacceptable, and I wholeheartedly embrace
that view.  It's the specimens that are our primary data.  This is why
there is such a battle these days to keep museum collections preserved.

One might think the situation is different in the molecular world, but I
don't think so.  Taxon sampling is now viewed as a real issue among
molecular systematists, and though one does see papers that present a new
tree with the addition of one new gene, more often we see papers that
present new sequences and a discussion of *why* they may disagree with
previously-published genes and/or morphology.


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago IL 60605

312-665-7633 voice
312-665-7641 fax