Ringlets and Evidence

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at gems3.gov.bc.ca
Tue Apr 4 15:54:18 EDT 2000

I kinda thought or at least hoped this little example of a real taxonomic
issue might be well received and prompt some comparison of various
perspectives.  I definately am aware of non-published information that bears
on this topic but my intent was twofold: 1) show one interpretation based
purely on the published literature that I had available.  2) solicit other
interpretations and additional information - published and unpublished.
Concerning the possible meeting of inornata and possible blending with other
taxa under the concept of C. california as suggested by Porter and Shapiro
data; as near as I can tell with no reference material here at the office,
this possible meeting could only occur in Montana. If there is a published
statement that this actually happens then I would certainly like to have the
citation.  But I hasten to add that I would not necessarily believe such a
statement just because it was published - some data would be helpful in that
case.  About the issue of what to do in cases where the evidence is
"obviously ambiguous".  Heckuva deep and important question which I think
will need to be answered on a case by case basis.  However I hasten to add
that in the example I gave, I really do not see any ambiguity. I see
published evidence that supports an interpretation of more than one species.
A taxonomic decision to lump them under the European species tullia would
seem to be based on assumed zones of intergradation for which there is no
supporting data that I am aware of. Quite right there is a
philosophical/personal preference issue that needs to be handled.  One
approach is to assume conspecifity on the basis of superficial resemblence
and lump them until contradictory evidence surfaces. People who find this
agreeable are welcome to take this approach. My preference is to not make
taxonomic decisions on the basis of superficial resemblence and assumed
zones of intergradation.  This appears to have been the decision making
approach for a number of things in the past and has resulted in unsupported
lumping. So the other option is to simply use a name that is supported by
information - and then invite people to "knock holes" in the assignment by
producing data or superior logic. In some cases I would argue that it would
be best to go back to the original assignment of the person who named the
taxon - until some contradictory evidence is produced. I make no a priori
assumptions about the taxonomic significance (or lack thereof) of small or
large visual differences. But in the case of comparing yukon ringlets to
southern bc or alberta ringlets; I see obvious and consistent differences.
Different looking beasties living in different ecosytems on different parts
of the continent strike me as reasonable candidates for objective
reconsideration of past taxonomic assignments. 
(I am uncharacteristically stuck for a closing witticism at this point-
brain must be jammed up)

Norbert Kondla  P.Biol., RPBio.
Forest Ecosystem Specialist, Ministry of Environment
845 Columbia Avenue, Castlegar, British Columbia V1N 1H3
Phone 250-365-8610
Mailto:Norbert.Kondla at gems3.gov.bc.ca

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