Nature Blog Network

Saturday, February 9, 2008


New additions to the Spineless Wonders blogroll:

Myrmecos - Insects, especially ants, and amazing photography with a healthy mix of extracurricular posts. I've been following Alex Wild's blog for months, don't know why I haven't blogrolled it yet!

The Ant Room - A graduate student at Boston University studying the ant fauna of Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador an blogging about it.

Introducing the Ecology and Systematics Blogroll!

10,000 Birds - Natural history of birdies.

Barcode of Life - I'm not advocating barcording, but I think their blog is interesting and useful as a tool and not as a sole method for describing new species.

Behavioral Ecology Blog - Its not his fault Michigan's football team sucks, at least he can write awesome posts on all things ecological!

Biodivcontext - One of several blogs by ant taxonomist and science consultant Donat Agosti from Switzerland.

Evolving Thoughts - Australian philospher of science John Wilkins blog. Excellent, well thought out posts on matters philosophical of species, biodiversity and occasional rants.

iPhylo - Blog of Rod Page in the U.K. exploring systematics and offering practical tools for working with phylogenies.

Linnaeus' Legacy - Blog carnival for matters taxonomical.

Oekologie - Homepage for the blog carnival of ecology.

Systematics and Biogeography - "The Companion Blog for topics addressed in the book Foundations of Systematics and Biogeography."

Voltage Gate - Blog of writer and journalist Jeremy Bruno who highlights issues and research concerning ecology, evolution and conservation.


  1. Dear Kevin, I note with interest your pointed stance on DNA barcoding. As you know, I am one of the evil barcoders ;). As such, I feel I must correct your statement above. If DNA barcoding was indeed, as you imply, a "sole method for describing new species" then I would most definitely join you in the anti-barcoding camp. However, that is not what barcoding proposes to be. It would be more accurate to say that was the position of people calling themselves advocates of DNA taxonomy (like Alfried Vogler at the NHM, London). DNA barcoding is a separate concept, proposed as a tool for detecting query specimens (or fragements thereof) against a database of DNA sequences attached to properly vouchered and identified (by a taxonomist) specimens. If a query barcode turns up that is not already part of the database, it would be flagged as wanting follow-up by said taxonomists. That said, with certain organisms that cannot be seen or cultured (most microbes fall into this category) DNA is the only handle for description. However that would be considered a last-ditch solution for describing a new species when no other taxonomic method is possible. So, rest assured that all specimens collected on the Beagle will be given the love and attention they deserve by real taxonomists/systematists and that their DNA barcodes will be attached to those specimen data and not be left to stand alone.

  2. Thanks for the note Karen. Don't worry I know you are one of the 'good' barcoders ;p

    I agree thatsome organisms DNA taxonomy is the only and preferred method. At times, even in animal specimens application of a phylogenetic species concept has resulted in detection of new morphological traits. That is why I think it is only a tool to be used with other classical and molecular methods. Unfortunately, I feel there are labs that go too far and describe new species based one 600bp fragment of mitochondrial DNA. Sometimes with not convincing bootstrap values! And their work gets published. That irks me as it decreases the stability of the taxonomic system as a whole. (damn splitters!) I prefer a more conservative approach by not naming new species if the evidence does conclusively support it, i.e. either with several more nuclear and mitochondrial markers or by looking more closely for morphological, behavioral or physiological differences. If the taxa are not available to put a potential species in context then it just has to wait till they are there!

    I am glad to hear the Beagle Project with the proper TLC to their specimens. But when faced with one or 2 individuals of problematic species, say a copepod, what will be the priority? Getting DNA or preserving for identification? Of course, if I were aboard I would be cataloging and paying special attention to all the Beagles specimens, making a table of characters for problematic taxa so I could compare morphotypes to make sure if we have one or two individuals in preservation, then any new one that came along further down the cruise, I would know would be OK to grind up for DNA.

  3. Thanks for the nice comments about the blog.. I'm pretty sure your wrong about that football comment though.. Did we beat you and your old coach this past year.

  4. It was an extremely narrow loss mind you. Sometimes a little luck prevails. Overall, we pretty much kick you behinds more than 90% of the time.

    And leave JoePa's age out of it man!


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