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Taxonomic vandalism explained and exposed

Discussion in 'Wildlife & Nature Conservation' started by DavidBrown, 8 Sep 2017.

  1. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I had not heard of the concept of taxonomic vandalism until I read this story. Apparently there are some unscrupulous taxonomists who steal the research of other people to name species before the researchers can. They use loopholes in the taxonomy code and non-peer-reviewed blogs to name the species. The problem seems especially rife in herpetology where there are nasty conflicts brewing about naming new reptile species.


    A Few Bad Scientists Are Threatening to Topple Taxonomy | Science | Smithsonian
     
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    that's a good article. I'm kind of surprised you haven't heard of the concept (@DavidBrown). At least over in this part of the world Hoser is quite infamous. I suppose, as the article suggests, those who study mammals or birds are much less exposed to it. The situation is a bizarre one as a whole and it is particularly dangerous nowadays where everybody gets their information from the internet.

    I liked this line especially: "In response to questions about the legitimacy of his journal, Hawkeswood delivered a string of expletives directed towards his critics, and contended that Calodema has “heaps of merit.” "

    Taxonomic vandalism is almost like an extreme version of taxonomic inflation though, which is rife in mammals and birds. I was waiting for the article to bring this up but they didn't. It's certainly not on the scale of Hoser's 800 named taxa, but there is often a rush to publish without good supporting evidence - the one which pops immediately to mind for me (simply because I happened to come across an older Zoochat thread about it yesterday) is the Bornean Slow Loris which was split into several species based solely on the facial markings and nothing else. And it is immediately followed despite the lack of credibility. It isn't as bad as "stealing" other scientists' work obviously, but the result can be the same and it can be detrimental for conservation.

    Groves is another really obvious candidate in this. I mean, he is clearly a legitimate scientist and obviously does follow scientific methods, but he also undeniably uses really rubbish methods at the same time to inflate his naming totals. It's not taxonomic vandalism in the vein of Hoser, but the result is the same, where largely-unsubstantiated splits are given legitimacy by being taken up by other works (in the case of Groves' ungulate totals, the HMW series).
     
  3. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I am aware of taxonomic inflation, but did not know about the extremes of it becoming "vandalism".

    At some point someone will probably invent an artificially intelligent taxonomy bot that can suck up all of the available data and pop out an objective answer. Or given the unending thicket of species concepts maybe people will just be arguing about taxonomy until the end of time.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    that they will. There are simply too many ways to gather, combine, and interpret data. It has been said that the days of splitting and lumping are over, due to the advent of genetic studies, but they really aren't. It will keep going in cycles I suspect.
     
  5. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    The moment I saw the title of this thread, I immediately knew it was going to pertain to Raymond Hoser........ :p
     
  6. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    Surely anyone in the scientific communities focused on the other classes would support changing the Code after a five minute explanation of this problem. It seems like a simple solution.
    The two 'H's come across as very nasty pieces of work.
     
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  7. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    That said, I would tend to argue that over-splitting of taxa is potentially less detrimental for conservation than over-lumping is.

    Say one is discussing the hypothetical genus Aaaaa, which is traditionally held to contain three species: A. aaaa, A. bbbb and A. cccc, the first of which is deemed to be Least Concern and the latter two of which are Vulnerable. These two species themselves contain a number of subspecies: A. bbbb bbbb, which is Near Threatened, A. bbbb dddd, which is Critically Endangered, A. cccc cccc, which is Near Threatened and A. cccc eeee, which is Critically Endangered.

    However, lumpers and splitters hold vastly differing opinions on this genus: lumpers count the genus as monotypic, recognising only Aaaaa aaaa as a single Least Concern species. Conversely the splitters not only recognise the three species, but elevate all subspecies too. This leads to three scenarios as far as conservation priority applies to this genus:

    Traditional - Aaaaa contains three species, of which two are deemed to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future and as such merit conservation efforts whilst the third is deemed not to merit such efforts.

    Lumper - Aaaaa contains a single species, which is not deemed to merit conservation efforts.

    Splitter - Aaaaa contains five species, of which two (Aaaaa dddd and Aaaaa eeee) are deemed to be facing a very high risk of imminent extinction in the wild, and two (Aaaaa bbbb and Aaaaa cccc) are deemed to potentially be at such a risk in the future; these four are therefore deemed to merit conservation efforts whilst the fifth (Aaaaa aaaa) is not deemed to merit conservation efforts.

    As such, over-umping carries more potential detriment than does over-splitting, as it holds the possibility of masking populations which are in imminent risk.
     
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  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    yes, quite possibly (or, most likely. Whichever). The point was simply that poorly-substantiated taxonomic changes should require better supporting evidence before acceptance, but quite often are not.

    I'm not sure your postulated binomial and trinomial names would be accepted by the ICZN though.
     
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  9. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    You would hope not, in any case :p
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    start a blog and rename some brown bear populations, see what they say.
     
  11. d1am0ndback

    d1am0ndback Well-Known Member

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    Hoser seems like quite an interesting man, especially after following the link to his website...

    I can't tell if the site has much meaning besides him glorifying himself. It seems his ego is on levels comparable to America's own Joe Exotic of GW Zoo.
     
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  12. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    That's pretty much all it's for. Hoser is a major embarrassment in Australia.

    :(

    Hix
     
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  13. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I found this the other day - the paper by Kaiser, Wuster and others - where they state that taxonomic vandalism is a problem that needs to be rectified, and I suspect was the catalyst for the article in the first post of this thread.

    https://www.researchgate.net/public...ody_of_evidence_and_published_via_peer_review

    It also contains a long list of all the new names proposed by Hoser since 2000, and suggests that any names proposed by anybody since 2000 that weren't published in a peer-reviewed journal and not derived from good science should be ignored.

    :p

    Hix
     
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  14. Loxodonta Cobra

    Loxodonta Cobra Well-Known Member

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