K.J.Caley Kevin.Caley at
Thu Jun 10 18:33:43 EDT 1999

James J. Kruse wrote:

> On Wed, 9 Jun 1999, K.J.Caley wrote:
> (snip)
> >  ...... Casmerodius as part of Egretta when it is actually more closely
> > related to Ardea and should warrant its own generic standing).
> Okay.
> How do you separate species characters from generic characters if you are
> going to create yet another monotypic bird genus?  "Difference" is a
> slippery and relative thing.

See Doug's more than adequate reply for this.

> I do not know very much about bird systematics, only to say that it seems
> at least half of all birds are monotypic genera. I can't see how that
> is informative, even if you include the family name in every discussion.
> I would prefer to see an "unusual" outlier included in a group that is
> hypothesized to be closely related than name a monotypic family/genus/
> species.

Unfortunately, every birder seemed to think that their species was special and
so gave it a generic name, at least that's what it looked like.  Through
various means (e.g. examining the whole of a family or set of families, just
as you describe, and something which is easier with the birds because of the
relatively small numbers), these problems are slowly being sorted out, but we
have a long way to go yet. Things are becoming far more sensible now, and I
tend to use the published trees to get that phylogenetic information I so

> I am not jumping on you personnally, just trying to stimulate
> conversation.

Didn't think otherwise!

> I await (expect) flames... but tell me what a subspecies is. I'm not even
> sure what a species is and I consider myself a systematist (and no, I'm
> not a lone idiot. The concept of species is an active, persisting debate).
> I know all of the different definitions and associated arguments and think
> of them while looking at morphology, ecology, molecules, etc., as I think
> I should.

Subspecies do seem to be far more subjective than species (as if they weren't
subjective enough, although we do have criteria that can help there).  I
personally do not like them, as too often they are derived from specimens in
collection from one particular point - when a whole series is collected (over
a geographical transect) you find that they are actually part of a gradual
cline (subspecies being more appropriate when you have a puctuated cline,
which you can only find out by doing intensive studies), or worse, there is
considerable microgeographic variation (how on earth can you have 2 subspecies
living side by side, as in the case of Bombus soroensis, for example - surely
they are merely colour forms?). We won't mention ecotypes, as they just make
me shiver (probably because my Phd looked at one)!

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