Bird names

Doug Yanega dyanega at
Tue Jun 8 12:40:37 EDT 1999

Michael Gochfeld wrote:

>There is NO reason that names have to reflect every
>taxonomic change----there are numbers and diagrams which can do that
>much better than names.

If two species are not part of the same evolutionary group, they shouldn't
have the same genus name. Conversely, a genus SHOULD include all
descendants of a common ancestor. Most of the taxonomic reshuffling of
genera you see reflects changes of one of these two types, and both are
VERY good reasons to rename things. Numbers and diagrams are not a solution
- I think people would have a lot harder time trying to recall "species
4508287" than "Parus atricapillatus".
        I must also confess, in all good humor (look, I'm grinning as I
type this), that the following statement nearly made me fall out of my
chair laughing, imagining a guy in a glass house throwing stones:

>It's a good thing there aren't as many butterfly systematists.

It is, after all, a nearly universal feeling among insect systematists that
there are WAY, *WAY* too many butterfly systematists relative to the work
that needs to be done. The systematist/taxon ratio has gotta be an order of
magnitude higher for butterflies than virtually any other group of
invertebrates. A reliable correlated index is what I call the SSR, or
"subspecies-species ratio". The only invertebrate group that has as many or
more named subspecies per species as butterflies is Cicindelids, possibly
followed by Saturniids. There's a lot of competition to give names to a
small number of taxa.
        Again, no need to take this as an insult, it is not intended to be
- it's merely the honest observation of someone who works on systematics of
UNpopular insects. ;-)


Doug Yanega       Dept. of Entomology           Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

More information about the Leps-l mailing list