Species definitions!

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Thu Sep 6 23:19:26 EDT 2001

I agree that it would be great to have energetic people with open minds
exploring the biology and relationships among butterflies.
But I am reminded of the elementary school "joke"  to whit:
        <Teacher, I added up this column of numbers 10 times. .... And here are
my 10 answers>

Or perhaps the blind men and the elephant.

Some of the new researchers will examine morphology (and yes probably genitalia)

Some will study behavior,  some may even find a solid way of analyzing pheromone
Some will study biochemical variables and others gene products or gene sequences

Each will proudly produce a tree, but how congruent will the trees be.
My experience with birds indicates only so-so.

The late Charles Sibley began his study of relationships among birfds at the
morphological level and progressed slowly to egg white proteins, serum protein
electrophoresis, and eventually DNA hybridization (with probably a few other
technological forays) with which he was able to characterize relationshipos and
some traits proved more useful at the species than at higher levels. However, in
many cases the congruence among the different treees was poor.   Since I suspect
we can probably all agree that selection act on organisms rather than on the
individual genes or codons,

He once told me that it was troublesome that the different suites of traits
yielded different understandings, but he was confident that the current
technique (DNA hybridization) would prove infallible if it's secrets can be
interpreted. (at least until the next technology comes along). Fortunately for
Charles he didn't live to put up with learning yet a new system.

Mike Gochfeld


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit:


More information about the Leps-l mailing list