Poor old californiensis etc.

Kristian Fauchald Fauchald.Kristian at NMNH.SI.EDU
Fri Jan 31 16:16:43 EST 2003

I believe the point Jim Blake made is extremely important:  
Geographically linked species names indicate where the original author 
had (or thought he or she had) his specimens from.  Nothing more, 
nothing less.  The most commonly used species name among for 
polychaetes is "capensis" simply because absolutely everybody on their 
way between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean stopped off their, got fresh 
food and water, and did some collecting in the early years.  More 
recently of course it has been a much more focused activity by the South 
Africans.  Similarly, "patagonica" does not mean that a species in some 
sense" originated" in Patagonia, other than the fact that early expeditions 
to Antarctica often stopped over there.  In fact a number of species 
called "antarctica" were collected in Patagonia by expeditions that went 
no further south.   

Jim is also quite correct that many of the widely distributed species have 
been relatively poorly analyzed and that we need more information.  The 
concept of a sibling species is linked to co-occurring species however.  
If you have two taxa that are allopatric in distribution, but highly similar, 
that is all they are.  The concept of sibling species was developed for 
birds I believe and allow ornithologists to use even very minor differences 
in plumage as valid characters, since they could demonstrate that these 
differences were linked to consistent differences in biology.  We have 
very little of the latter, and I would very much like to see careful, 
consistent work on a combination of ecology, molecular systematics and 
variability of morphological features.  That way we may get the 
"independent" features we may need to justify the use of very minor 
differences in morphology. Ah, what a pleasure it is to have an excuse to 
ride a couple of favorite hobby-horses on a miserable Friday morning!  

Kristian Fauchald

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