RE: species concepts [long]

To: "'ozbird'" <>
Subject: RE: species concepts [long]
From: "Conole, Lawrie" <>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 1997 12:30:47 +1000
> Following is the recent debate on BirdChat on species, in which I
> participated, and nearly got kicked off for flaming. Touchy egos some
Thanks Glen.  This IS interesting (though maybe not to all

> Basically I think Andrew Taylor is correct in his recent posting to
> Birding-Aus: the species of the RAOU checklist is what the authors
> perceive as a species and has nothing to do with definitions or
> empiricism. I do not disagree with this as long as it is acknowledged.
Excellent point.  I've been having this debate with a Dutch guy, Ed
Colijn, about Indonesian birds.  Sibley & Monroe are "right" according
to Ed, because they've done the science.  Well in many cases at species
level, their list is unsubstantiated opinion like any other.  I've gone
back to the primary sources in a few cases, and you get things like 2
lines in a 50 page paper that say "We saw one of these species A birds,
and it looked a bit like species B."  That becomes the basis for future
taxonomic treatments of species A & B, until someone actually gets
around to having a proper look.  Birding-Aus-ers looking for something
to do, could be amused, certainly sobered, by following up some of the
old references that are quoted in authorities like Sibley & Monroe and
Christidis & Boles.  DNA-DNA hybridisation work (a la Sibley & Monroe,
Christidis, etc.) has only been done for a relatively small number of
the world's bird "species".  It has been very illuminating for higher
classificatory purposes (families, orders), but has a long way to go in
being useful in all cases at species level.  

> In what follows, Futuyma's summary is excellent. He is one of the last
> students of Ernest Mayr, the ornithologist and evolutionary theorist.
> It
Doug Futuyma's reply is a dissertation in itself; and a very high
quality contribution for an e-mail discussion list.  Thanks for bouncing
it on to Birding-Aus.

> Hope this all helps. If it doesn't, Robert Quinan don't ask the
> question
> again or you will be burnt at the stake!
Thanks Robert for bringing it up.

Lawrie Conole
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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