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Re, Expert Taxonomic Identifications

JAMES BLAKE jablake at ix.netcom.com
Wed Dec 13 11:36:58 EST 1995

Dear Annelid enthusiasts, 

The recent postings by Read, Zibrowius, and Ten Hove on their views 
about "expert" and "non-expert" identifications need to be tempered 
with the point that our knowledge of speciation in polychaetes has 
changed considerably in recent years.  SEMs were not available to most 
of our predecessors; there was little appreciation of how species were 
moved around my man's activities, and there was no knowledge of the 
genetics of sibling species.  We are now examining species at a 
different level of discrimination than we were even 10 years ago.  

Twenty years ago, almost any cirratulid found with cinctures of spines 
encircling its posterior end would probably have been referred to 
Chaetozone setosa with little thought.  

For example, in 1968 I participated in a cruise to the eastern Canadian 
Arctic and in the results (Blake and Dean, 1973: Bull. So. Calif. Acad. 
Sci. 72), did indeed identify such a cirratulid from off Baffin Island 
as Chaetozone setosa. 

In a recent revision of cirratulids from the northeastern Pacific, I 
have identified no less than 16 species of Chaetozone, none of which 
are the real C. setosa.  

A reexamination the above mentioned Arctic "C. setosa" mentioned in the 
1973 paper indicates that it is yet another undescribed species. 

We are going to find this level of speciation in cirratulids all over 
the world and the difficulty of documenting this diversity will be very 
difficult, but it non-the-less exists; and in other families as well. 

My point is that we should not dwell on who did what kind of 
identifications or how well or how poorly.  We all make mistakes, but 
given the level of our knowledge and understanding and what is at our 
disposal at the time, we do the best we can.

Jim Blake
89 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543
(jablake at ix.netcom.com)

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