fitting acknowledgement for Chris Corben

To: "Peter Shute" <>, <>, <>
Subject: fitting acknowledgement for Chris Corben
From: "Chris Corben" <>
Date: Tue, 3 Nov 2009 19:07:26 -0600
Chris, d oes this situation of common but unnamed bats exist elsewhere in the developed world?

Not in the same way, I would think. If I tell bat workers in Europe about having two un-named species in the middle of Brisbane, they think I'm kidding, and then find it scandalous. There are certainly many issues to be resolved in bat taxonomy in Europe and North America, but they are mostly at a much more subtle level than the problems in Australia.

But to be fair, the problems faced in Australia are different, because of the low population density (meaning less bat workers per bat) and historical problems with type specimens and the difficulty of sorting out the myriad of populations which exist and how they relate to each other over the scale of a continent, most of which is not occupied by bat workers. Bats are generally much more difficult to work with than birds - very distinctive species often don't look too different to a human.

The biggest problem is that the importance of the process has largely been lost. At the same time, museums throughout the world have been starved of resources and the perceived value of long-term collections keeps getting downgraded. Genetic work has largely supplanted the methodical morphological work which was the mainstay in the past, and while genetic work has tremendous value and has done a lot to resolve many taxonomic issues, it isn't everything. Consider just the point that you can work out how to identify taxa genetically, but unless someone puts the work into resolving morphological correlates, that doesn't help anyone know how to identify those animals in the field. It is quite right that genetic work has become so prominent. What is troubling is that it has done so at the expense of any other approaches.

Genetics won't solve everything - there are species which act as very good species in the traditional sense or even morhpologically, which genetic work fails to resolve. Better techniques can be expected to improve this. But it won't solve the problem that people skilled in the morphological side of it are dying out and not being replaced. This will inevitably cause a brain drain and a loss of skills which are increasingly important to wildlife management, yet increasingly difficult to replace. But not everyone will be unhappy about that....

Unfortunately, that part of the human population which cares (and I really think it is a big part) happily goes along believing the governing powers are looking after things. How many of you know that Australia has just lost yet another mammal? The Christmas Island Pipistrelle (yes another bat) has been declining precipitously for years (it used to be very common), yet nothing was done except when it was completely too late. Yep - they found one bat. Hopefully this couldn't happen with birds, because there are so many people like yourselves who are keeping an eye on things.

Or are there? I was dismayed to hear the latest news about the Western Ground parrot, and bizarrely enough, the perception that elevating it to species status might save it. For crying out loud! Twenty years ago the Queensland Forest Service, no less, accepted the notion that it shouldn't be making regional populations of anything extinct. Not just named taxa, but regional populations. Why isn't this Parrot's status news, and well known to everyone? It seems to me it would make a difference if the public actually KNEW about it! I doubt people are all that blase about a parrot going extinct!

Cheers, Chris.


To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU