Herbarium taxonomy versus field knowledge. Is there an attainable solution?
Flora Malesiana Bulletin , Volume 10 - Issue 1 p. 31- 35
Evolution is a complex process and the species produced by evolutionary processes are therefore of necessity not always clear-cut. Problems associated with definition of species boundaries have always plagued taxonomists and, no doubt, always will. However, I would maintain that in most situations there really is a ‘best’ solution to what kind of taxonomic recognition to accord a specific evolutionary pattern. The optimum solution to these kinds of problems depends in part on taxonomic philosophy. Are species real objective evolutionary entities? (Our job being to find out what they are.) Or are they essentially artificial constructs whose delimitation more or less depends on taxonomic convenience and preference? In the latter case, there is no ‘solution’ to the taxonomists’ dilemma. Certainly, many people working in the temperate zone, where rampant autogamy means that every clone of Taraxacum is essentially a different microspecies, tend to feel that this is the case. However, many of us working in the Neotropics feel that species are mostly far better defined and are, for the most part, quite objective entities. Indeed, as I see it, if species are not in some sense real units whose nature and limits we are trying to discover via scientific thought processes, taxonomy would hardly be worth doing, and we should turn our efforts to some other field of endeavor, say, population genetics, where the scientific method does provide insight into the real world.
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Gentry, A. H. (1989). Herbarium taxonomy versus field knowledge. Is there an attainable solution?. Flora Malesiana Bulletin, 10(1), 31–35.