Cris Guppy & Aud Fischer cguppy at
Tue Feb 8 00:20:37 EST 2000

Ah well!! I will dive in again. But I actually (sort of) agree with James.
We do have different subspecies concepts. I have the view that subspecies
inherently will not have significant biological differences, and that
subspecies names are merely labels for geographically defined groups of
populations that show consistent relatively minor phenotypic differences. I
associate "significant biological differences" with species level taxonomy,
not subspecies level. If "the *populations* treat each other as something
distinct" as James suggests, the odds are very good that two species are
involved.  I can't off-hand think any subspecies which have what I would
call significant biological differences. Perhaps James can provide some

-----Original Message-----
To: leps-l at <leps-l at>
Date: February 7, 2000 9:47 AM
Subject: Subspecies

>Cris and listers,
> I was going to just let it go, but then realized that Cris Guppy
>mentioned a couple of things that I just had to respond to.
> Cris clearly *does* view subspecies in a completely different
>light than I do.  For him, a subspecies name can simply be used
>as a tag on a geographically separated population, whether there is
>anything biologically distinct going on in that population or not.  To
>me, this is simply insufficient.  There is also clearly nothing I can
>say that would convince him that this is an inappropriate use of the
>subspecific concept.  I also need to state clearly that, although it
>probably sounded different in my first message, that it is *not* the
>subspecies concept per se that I am opposed to, it is its typical
>*use*.  I would bet that the vast majority of subspecies in *most
>organisms are named based on *visible* marking differences, or
>size differences, or some other kind of difference that, although it
>may be quantifiable, may have nothing to do with anything
>important in the biology of the populations involved.  Indeed, the
>reason why I cringed when I saw the *Systematics on Western
>Butterflies* book advertised with a statement about 210 new
>subspecies being described, is because I feared that all of these
>subspecies would be described precisely as I stated above, and,
>after looking at the book, it's true!!  This subspecies can be
>*recognized* by the slightly larger subterminal spot on the
>forewing, that subspecies can be recognized by the slightly darker,
>more olive coloration on the underside of the hindwing, etc.  In
>virtually all cases, there is *nothing* in the description of these
>subspecies describing anything about the *biology* of these new
>subspecies *being different* from other subspecies.  In my opinion,
>it doesn't matter whether *we* can recognize some population as
>slightly different, it is whether or not the *populations* treat each
>other as something distinct.  This is my biggest complaint with the
>use of the subspecies concept -- rarely are subspecies
>investigated in terms of their biology in relationship to other
>subspecies; indeed, I doubt sincerely that the biology of a lot of the
>already *existing* "subspecies" is well known before new ones are
> Now I'm done!
> James
>Dr. James K. Adams
>Dept. of Natural Science and Math
>Dalton State College
>213 N. College Drive
>Dalton, GA  30720
>Phone: (706)272-4427; fax: (706)272-2533
>U of Michigan's President James Angell's
>  Secret of Success: "Grow antennae, not horns"

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