that 'splitters versus lumpers rubbish'

Subject: that 'splitters versus lumpers rubbish'
From: Rod Gardner <>
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 1998 14:54:50 +1000
Thanks, David, for clarifying the situation on the 'new' albatross
taxonomy. I for one certainly take on board a lot of your comments, but I
would like to take issue with the bit about the 'same old splitters versus
lumpers rubbish'. I think it's more than just a political issue that
interferes with the scientific processes of taxonomy.
Most of us non-professional birders do most of our birding at the 'species'
level, and don't spend an awful lot of time checking the subspecies,
particularly of relatively subtly marked birds. A case in point is the
albatrosses, for which trip reports, until recently at least, did not
differentiate for subspecies. We are, surely, all agreed that subspecies
should be conserved as well as species, and that there's more to it than
'just a few extra spots', as someone said of an endangered race of the
Peregrine. If amateur birders get used to distinguishing 'Campbell' from
'Black-browed' Albatrosses (or impavida from melanophrys), then we're
likely to get a lot more information about their seasonal movements, and
maybe behaviour at sea, and who knows what else.  It's true, in a sense,
that it doesn't matter what we call them, so long as we have information
that will help conserve them.
As for the matter of confusion that Glen Ingram raised, how about the
phylloscopus warblers, for example, or the tyrant flycatchers? We're pretty
cushioned here in Australia when it comes to confusing groups. I think we
need a few more to challenge our ID skills. There's probably a lot to be
said for putting all conservation money into land acquisition, as Glen
suggested, but I for one will be saddened by the demise of Barry Albatross.
So forget splitters and lumpers. Count what you will and distinguish what
you can.

Rod Gardner

David James wrote:

Not quite. Its a bit unofficial because it is an opinion that was adopted
at an albatross conference which was based of a revision which :

(1) was unpublished at the time (makes it difficult to sctrutinse) and
still is as far as I am aware.

(2) contains insufficient new information to justify its changes which
amount to nothing more than elevating all recognised subspecies to species
level and ressurecting a couple of old genus name. Its the same old
spliters verse lumpers rubbish.

The work has not yet undergone the scrutiny of peer reveiw that is required
for its reccomendations to be accepted by the taxonomic community. The
arguments have not been presented for scrutitny of their merits.

The term "interim" taxonomy which has been applied to this taxonomic
arrangement is meaningless. Individuals are free to use whatever taxonomy
they want, just like English names, but it is not helpful to use a
different taxonomy to everybody else. The process of adopting an interim
taxonomy is a political one that interferes with the scientific processes
of taxonomy.

By the way, about as much information on the relationships between the
terminal taxa (whether you call them species or subspecies) is contained in
the "old" as the "new" taxonomy. Not much of a break through. Really, its
only a new "nomenclature".

One motivation for all the splitting seems to be to be able to recocognise
more species as threatened given the disasterous situation created by
long-line by-catch. However, since endangered species legislation generally
applies to terminal taxa (ie either species or subspecies) the the argument
is flawed.

I would reccomend that everyone wishing to adopt the philoshophy read the
papers and asses the arguments for themselves.
David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre 4810

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