Monday, March 31, 2008

Parataxonomy vs. taxonomy

I just read Krell's (2004) interesting article about Parataxonomy, a organism sorting method based on the identification of so called recognizable taxonomic units (RTU) instead of 'real' species.

Simplification of taxonomy is also very common in paleontology (-related) investigations.

Yes I confess I also submitted studies without clarifying my taxonomic concepts, to repent I enclose a jpg of what I formerly regarded as Neogloboquadrina pachyderma Ehrenberg 1861
As far as I remember from my former life as as 'foram picker', the proper use of taxonomy is quite uncommon in e.g. paleoclimte studies. A large amount of data based on organism counts with very unclear taxonomic basis therefore already exists (which was a motivation for TaxonRank).

After reading Krell I wondered how good actually taxonomic documentation in the current literature of my former discipline today is. Therefore, I decided to perform a quick test on the 2007 Volumes of Marine Micropaleontology. I scanned 40 articles (surely not enough, but I just wanted to have a quick impression) and the result confirmed more or less my bad expectations.

Only 2 articles included a complete systematics section where the species concepts have been described including synonymy lists. At least 15 Articles provided a species list in the appendix, 6 of these lists included references to the original reference of the treated taxon. 1 article used DNA analysis.
However, the majority of articles (22) used species names but did not include any taxonomic documentation. And this was a bit surprising to me. Three of these articles included electronical supplements with species lists - unavailable for readers of the printed version. Nine of these articles at least included one or more references as taxonomic key.

But still, more than 25% of all scanned publications used species names but did not document their taxonomic concepts at all! So there surely is a lack of proper methodological documentation.


Krell(2004): Parataxonomy vs. taxonomy in biodiversity studies-pitfalls and applicability of 'morphospecies' sorting. Biodiversity and Conservation Vol. 13, p.795-812.

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