Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Generic hostility, Part 2

Randy Irmis sent this in response. He was afraid that it didn't show him at his best; I assured him that if anyone comes off looking like a loony or an asshole in this exchange, it's definitely me (see next post).

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Subject: Re: Cryptic species and real genera; also, lasers

Certain bone proteins appear to be genus-specific.

Before you gun me down with your quick-draw "What's a genus?"
Wake&Mishler revolver, just hang on a sec.


Ooops, your second is over! How many "genera" have been tested? If you state that it differentiates genera, isn't this just a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people revising the contents of genera because they don't fit the method that supposedly differentiates genera? Does it actually differentiate a speciose genus (e.g. 100 species) just as good as a monospecific genus? These are things that need to be tested before making such grand claims.

Nevertheless, that is not the biggest problem with this method. The vast diversity of life is outside of Vertebrata. The method does not have any relevance here, and one of the biggest arguments about the artificiality of ranks is that they do not apply equally across the tree of life. This problem is not solved by this method.

And yes, I'm cranky today.

Never at a loss for words,
Randy

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