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Taking a step back- new species splits

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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 00:31   #1
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Taking a step back- new species splits

Species splits all over the world as many are aware are rapidly increasing and in a number cases in my opinion completely unjustified.

Classifying a species can of-course be tricky, particularly for disjunct populations with small apparent morphological or behavioural differences. This does not mean however that this necessitates a species split!!!!

A sub-species can only truly be redefined as a full species if it is unable to produce fertile offspring with the nominate species. Often new species splits require this, as morphological divergence is often small (in evolutionary terms) even if phenotypic variation can be relatively large. (some mutations are more frequent etc...)

Genetic differences between sub-species are often so slight that differentiaton on the basis of genetics is unreliable.

Eg:The common gull Larus canus is now I understand being slit up ito mew gull, kamchatkan gull etc. Absurd without verification.

The problem as I see it lies not in the technically accepted way of classifying species but how we view the classification system. Sub-species are not afforded the same consideration or (legal or otherwise) protection

The 'rules' can be 'bent' in my opinion in favour of classifying a bird a full species under threat of extinction or widespread extirpation (as this tends to afford it greater protection). But for birds under no such threat can we please stick to the rules!!!

Perhaps the way forward is to give grades at sub-species level

The criteria of some current re-classifications would allow human races to be divided into seperate species which would of-course be absurd.

Are book publishers sponsoring the people who make these splits?
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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 02:39   #2
Kevin Mac
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Splits make many people happy. More ticks? Condensing is more difficult. But I really think most splits are based on sound scientific evidence. I do shudder at the discussions of Red Crossbills though. DNA says this, your eyes and ears say "whats the difference"?!!
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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 08:27   #3
rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn!
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Won't be too long before they're splitting Greenfinches across the UK - Gloucestershire Greenfinch, Staffordshire Greenfinch... all subtly but crucially ever so slightly different. Should be fun for the yearlisters as they chase that elusive 1000 species in the UK target.
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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 11:29   #4
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Most of it is to make twitchers happy and gain some publicity for the author. And BirdLife at one point decided not to conserve bird subspecies, only species. The reason behind was that there is too many subspecies, but people reacted by splitting species to give them more conservation concern.

Interestingly, XIX century naturalists also split everything. Most "recent" splits were already "species" once, in XIX century. At one point ca.15000 or more (35000?) bird species were recognised. It seems, it is time now to dust off some 100 years-old papers!

Next generation realised how big is individual variation etc. and lumped them. I wonder, when tide will turn again and there will be a "revolutionary" trend of lumping species again?
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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 12:15   #5
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I fail to understand why sub-species should be (and are) treated any differently within a conservation context.
Surely sub-species are all part of the bio-diversity, so why not look at all these forms as 'Ecological Units' rather than species, sub-species etc?

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Old Friday 10th December 2004, 12:19   #6
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because of cash availability Tris

if every subspecies of Pitta in Indonesia were elevated to species status they'd only get about a fiver each.....!!!
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Old Saturday 11th December 2004, 11:13   #7
Steve Lister
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The updates to James Clements' Checklist of Birds of the World are due out next week and I suspect that they will include as many 'lumps' as splits. I got a preview and my world list would go down by four!! This is probably just a temporary lull though, as I expect a lot of splits over the next year - I stand to recoup my four, and a few more, when the southern Asia splits are published in the spring.

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