Papilio joanae

Mark Walker MWalker at
Fri Jan 26 15:44:34 EST 2001

Ron wrote about Papilio taxonomy, and alluded to less-than-scientific
reasons for lumping.
I've often wondered about this myself.  I figure there might be several such
reasons, some perhaps being mutually exclusive.  Here are some possible
less-than-scientific explanations:
1.  As Ron alluded, perhaps there are those who think that lumping will
reduce the desire, and therefore the impact from new collectors (the notion
that fewer collectors is better).
2.  Perhaps, OTOH, it is a desire to eliminate the collecting pressure on
specific local populations.  Once a collector has a specimen of Papilo
troilus, there would be no reason to travel to and trample the Fakahatchee
Swamp to get another one.
3.  Perhaps there are those who don't like the idea of some amateur having
the distinction of discovering or describing a new species.  This would boil
down to jealousy, more than anything.
4.  Perhaps the Powers That Be want to be among the few who know about local
populations - so that there might be LESS press and resulting hindrance on
their successful study.  An interesting aside to this theory is that it
serves to protect and encourage further sampling - without drawing unwanted
Whether or not any of these are true motivations, who can guess?  All of
them are somewhat obnoxious when you consider the implicit deception that
might be at work.  A more interesting question is whether or not any of them
might be valid.  Does lumping reduce the likelihood of increased trampling?
It very well could, considering the fact that publication of a unique
sub-species flying in some remote location does tend to draw the attention
of the otherwise uninformed watcher/collector.  Would this also decrease the
likelihood of legislation that might hinder the benefits of sampling?
Again, it very well could.  It's sort of like the tendancy for collectors to
keep their "hot spots" a secret.  While this is somewhat selfish, it does
tend to draw less attention to what otherwise might become a tourist frenzy.
Of course, with no attention comes ignorance, and ignorance is powerless
when it comes to avoiding habitat destruction.  What was previously my
favorite secret collecting spot is now a 7-11.
At the end of the day, I still see the propensity for lumping to be
anti-productive.  Collectors are going to continue to sample local
populations, regardless of the taxonomic specifics.  It's variation that
stimulates voucher collecting, not formal taxonomy.  Furthermore,
elimination of information always seems to me to be a bad idea.  If the
literature remains data-rich, providing evidence that species variation
follows habitat diversity, then I'll be more inclined to look in places
previously unexplored.  I'm also more inclined to recognize the need for
I may be being heretically unscientific, but I if the reasons for lumping
are truly based solely on science, then I suggest that additional literature
be published that provides description and distribution of creatures based
on variation - regardless of currently accepted taxonomic classification.
If nothing else, it would make for good reading on rainy days such as these.
Mark Walker
feeling unusually opinionated while underwater in Oceanside, CA
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ron Gatrelle [mailto:gatrelle at]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 10:41 PM
> To: Leps-l
> Subject: Papilio joanae
> Well, my Papilio joanae post didn't stir up much response. So
> I'll respond
> myself. Taxa should be elevated or lowered only upon formal scientific
> publication dealing specifically with the change in status. I know of
> nowhere where this has been done with P. joanae. I received
> three off line
> suggestions to consult the work of Felix Sperling, and also
> Tyler et al in
> Swallowtails of the Americas. I do not own the latter. I have
> examined the
> Book at the FSCA library in Gainesville (this was in regard to my
> description of Pterourus troilus fakahatcheensis). I
> personally found this
> book inaccurate in various taxonomic areas.
> One off line post (a fourth) echoed this same sentiment. The
> individual
> relayed their puzzlement at the books lumping of brevicauda and joanae
> under machaon, canadensis under galucus, and zelicaon under
> polyexenes. Not
> having this handy I can neither confirm or deny these taxonomic
> misalignments. (Someone else can jump in and state how these
> are treated
> for sure in the book.)
> On Dr. Sperling's position/research. I have in my hand as I
> write this a
> manuscript copy of an article (dated 5/12/00) Sperling had in
> press at the
> time he sent it to me. (It is on molecular systematics.) This
> looks to be
> the latest thing he has done on the subject. (Since Dr. Sperling is a
> Leps-l subscriber, and thus privy to these post, he can
> surely correct me
> if any of my interpretations of this paper are incorrect.)
> He has joanae and brevicauda in a tenuous alignment. (I
> hesitate to give
> too many specifics and will give no direct quotes, as this
> paper may not be
> published as yet -- this is his thunder.) I think it is safe
> to say that
> while he sees certain clear genetic influences and
> affinities, he does not
> call these two taxa official subspecies of machaon or factual
> species. (I
> will not state how he refers to them in the paper as  _____
> or _____ ______
> under Papilio.) My own conclusion from his mtDNA assessment
> of joanae and
> brevicauda is that they are evolving away from machaon and
> polyexenes. So
> that if they are not yet full species they are certainly very
> close (in
> eonic time) to this status.
> He retains glaucus, canadensis, rutulus, and multicaudata as
> clear species.
> Zelicaon and polyxenes are likewise addressed as species.
> This is probably
> all I should relay.
> There certainly is no valid reason for the USGS listing to
> omit P. joanae
> because there is no published scientific paper that sinks it
> and delineates
> why -including the in press Sperling paper.
> I have not used one of my favorite subject terms lately -
> dumbing down. It
> exists here in my opinion.  "The money" that is buying the
> butterfly books
> and the butterfly gardner-watcher-house industry right now is
> largely that
> of amateurs and new-comers. I believe they are being  grossly
> short changed
> by the mention-no-subspecies policy of the current Powers
> That Be. Perhaps
> this is because the Powers know that there are thousands of
> undescribed
> butterflies and moths in the world and this "knowledge" might
> instigate a
> whole new generation of scientific collectors. I'll quit here.
> Ron
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