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Split vs. Lump?

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Heather

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Yes, I'm opening that can of worms tonight, and I'll tell you why.
I cannot make up my mind. Just when I think I am a lumper for taxonomical reasons, someone says something like this:

John said:
Man generally makes a total mess of the stewardship of orchid species. "Let's just cross besseae and dalessandroi, and the peruvian and ecuadorian forms of besseae into each other until we have some bastard seed that we call a true species." It's already been done. How many other species have we "muddied" so far? Paph philippinense is well on it's way.
Which makes me totally agree with the idea of being a splitter. When you take something like philippinense and it's varieties, and cross them, there's no telling what you end up with. Same with John's example of besseae. Now that dalessandroi is recognized as a species in its' own right, we have a hybrid named Jersey, but because that was not done from the outset, we've also got all of these "bastard" species floating around which aren't besseae, and aren't dalessandroi, may be Jersey but who the hell really knows, and yet because there was no real distinction made at the time of breeding we cannot really say for sure what we've got, and we have to go around counting horns on staminodes and such nonsense. If they'd just split them off in the first place, things would be a lot clearer.

Now, I realize that geographic distribution and forms that show up singly in a colony of others are just flukes, and not necessarily taxonomically different enough to warrant species status, but some of these plants that are now being broken out and given species status, well, I think we'd have avoided a lot of mess if we'd just started with calling it a species in the first place.

So, someone talk me down from my precipitous cliff of becoming a splitter. I'm teetering here!
 

kentuckiense

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I'm simply in favor of recognizing the morphological differences that occur in different populations. The more information about a plant, the better. I don't know what that makes me.
 

Marco

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Well, I really don't care about science or taxomonologicallysomethingorthe other. I don't care if their seperated based on stolon growth or how cell division is different from one sub-division from another. I know that other people it meants a whole lot which is cool. Variety indeed is the spice of it all. To me its just all semantics. Just give me a name and show me a picture and were good to go on the visual association. If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck then to me its a duck. But now if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck but it has rainbow feathers. It's still a duck :poke:
 

Marco

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Heather nope - then its a goose it just sounds like a duck...lol....im a visual person :)

well to not help you further. If you split your essentially lumping other things together. :poke: :rollhappy:

So then it really depends wether its a vertical, lateral or even diagonal ( i dont think all these exist im just putting it here to try to sound all scientific) similarities. Because you can group all "alba" flowers together. Or you can group "red" flowers together and just give a different name like "coruleas" wait thats for blue....nevermind lol.

-------

edit : im just being a pain in the butt :D . Please carry on on the normal discussion.
 

silence882

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I think I may have found a flaw in your line of reasoning... You're basing your arguments on plants that are already in cultivation. Taxonomy depends upon observations of plants in the wild. A lot of armchair taxonomists spout off about the differences between species, never having seen the range of variation in nature.

Paph. laevigatum is a good example of names in cultivation gone awry. All the taxonomic literature I've read says laevigatum is a synonym of philippinense, yet the name 'laevigatum' is everywhere in horticulture. Why? Orchid breeders / growers / resellers would much rather have 2 species to sell than 1. Paph. philippinense is a widespread, (yet locally rare) extremely variable species. Conclusions about the natural variation within a species cannot be made from plants in cultivation. (a similar argument is often made about Paph. roebelenii, but I will refrain from pontificating because I don't have the original description)

Next example! Phrag. reticulatum and Phrag. czerwiakowianum are conspecific with Phrag. boissierianum. I base this on McCook's observation that she could stand in the middle of a single population and see examples of all three 'species.' The differences between the three taxa were a result of either natural variation within the species or the age of the flowers (open with straight petals which twist over time). In cultivation, however, all 3 taxa are sold as good species.

And one nitpicky thing: 'Ecuadorian' Phrag besseae's are different than Phrag. besseae var. dalessandroi. The population of Phrag. besseae var. dalessandroi was found in the same general area as Phrag. besseae in Ecuador (along the Rio Zamora or one of its small tributaries). I agree with those that consider dalessandroi a variant of besseae because a distinct population (or populations?) with flowers showing minor, yet distinct morphological differences has been found. Yes, it would have been nice if the two had been recognized as separate taxa and breeding done more carefully, but the problem only involves those in cultivation. The two varieties still 'exist' separately in the wild.

As you may guess, IMHO lumping rules.

--Stephen
 
C

couscous74

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I'm with Marco - I don't care.

If it quacks, can I eat it?
 

Heather

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Okay. Stephen's good.

Next! :)

However, I don't think philippinense is widespread today. Show me some photos of plants available today (in cultivation) that have no roebelinii in them. Please. The nebulosity makes me crazy! And yet, my philippinese and my roebeliniis look like completely different plants. Can anyone give me specific grexes of one or the other?
I understand what you are saying though about plants in cultivation. I guess I would like to see some in situ photos of all of the philippinense complex to compare to the cultivated ones.

I know, I obsess over issues with this species, but there are so many variations, and I want clarity, dammit!
 
G

gore42

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I think that there are a couple of issues here:

1) The validity of different forms of orchids, and

2) Whether the forms in question deserve species level designation.

For me, the first issue is the most important and complex. Within many animal and plant populations, there are not distinct borders for populations, and in the wild there are individuals that have mixtures of traits.... I think Stephen pointed out a good example of this with the Phrag boiserianum examples. This seems like sloppy science to me, more than anything else.

I don't think that this is the 'lumpers' v. 'splitters' debate, though. There are certainly groups of orchids that, in the wild, exhibit certain traits that are population specific and are significantly different from other populations.

The lumper/splitter debate is really about issue 2. On this matter, I don't think it makes any difference at all; the matter is purely semantic as long as the terms are used within a defined context. That is to say, "species" as a category is a completely artificial designation; it doesn't exist in nature... it was created by us as a way of organizing our world. As such, it doesnt make any difference at all whether we choose one criterion or another to define the category, as long as we make clear what criterion we are using.

I think that in most cases, this is what it comes down to.

Consider this example from Cribb (since Stephen has already mentioned it): Paph philippinense var. roebelenii.

Cribb must be one of the best known lumpers. He says "Plants introduced as P. roebelenii do seem to have consistently long pendent petals and it seems most satisfactory to recognise them at varietal level as var. roebelenii" (Cribb 1987:99).

As we know, this "variety" is found only on the island of Luzon. To me, that seems like a distinct population with distinct characteristics. Again, Cribb recognizes that there are differences, and states that the variety "Differs from the typical variety in having rather larger flowers with longer pendant petals up to 13cm long"(Cribb 1987:100).

So, here, we have a species for which issue number 1 is not an issue at all. The issue is what we call it. Cribb's definition of species says that it's not a species, other's definitions will tell you that it is. For my part, I don't care. The only advantage to keeping it as a variety is that the name still shows that there is an evolutionary relationship between the two forms. I don't think that we need to rely on a name to pass on that knowledge, though. Anyway, when there is dispute, I always try to remember to give both names when I'm writing something, so that the reader can take his/her pick.

In my own field (Biological Anthropology) I'm a lumper, though... usually :)

As Ever,
Matthew Gore
 

Rick

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I think its a natural human trait to agonize over black and white divisions within shades of gray, but I generally agree with Stephen.

For some reason it seems that the collection locality data is the first data lost once a plant enters cultivation, and given the poor accesability and generally low density of orchid populations its generally a small mater of time before everyone is fighting over minute differences in staminode shape to differentiate species.

Hopefully DNA analysis will get cheap and easy enough to help straighen out allot of plants that have lost there population data during cultivation.
 

SlipperFan

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Rick said:
Hopefully DNA analysis will get cheap and easy enough to help straighen out allot of plants that have lost there population data during cultivation.
That's what I am hoping for, also. A nice, neat, definitive package. Until then, it's all very confusing, especially as has been noted, with regard to hybrids.
 
E

Eric Muehlbauer

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Part of the problem is that there really is no clear cut line between species...its more of a continuum (especially in rapidly evolving and speciating orchids), and its really a matter of where you choose to draw the line. If you go over the orchid literature, you will find that the real taxonomists tend to be either lumpers or conservative splitters. The real splitters are not really taxonomists...look at Jack Fowlie, who never saw a species or subspecies he couldn't name, or dealers...how many names can be traced back to Ray Rands (ex: primulinum "liltii")? Take care, Eric
 
D

Drorchid

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I have to agree for the most part with Stephen, Mathew and Eric.

My personal take on being a lumper or a splitter depends on the situation. Often the "Species concept" is a man-made concept. In the wild you can have a bunch of different populations that go from one extreme to another, and sometimes even within a population you can find a lot of variation, so if you put all the different "genotypes" next to each other it is hard to draw a line where one "species" starts and the next one begins. It is like having 100 straws that all differ from each other by 1 mm, if you put them all next to each other you cannot draw a line between them.

If you would take the two extreme genotypes and put them next to each other they would look like different species......(or if you would take the smallest straw and the longest straw and put them next to each other, they would clearly differ in size).....and that is the problem when you are dealing with a highly variable species....if two plants from a "variable species" like Paph. philippinense or Phrag. besseae get collected from different populations that represent the two extremes they would look like two distinct species while in fact they are just two different genotypes from a highly variable species.

However if separate populations from a variable species, like Paph. philippinense, due to climate conditions......say the climate gets drier or hotter....get isolated from each other......say, they only can survive on separate mountain tops or islands that are isolated from each other, so you get no more gene flow from one population to the next.......over time you will get different selection pressures, and some genes will get lost, and you will get new genes (due to mutations) that will appear, so over time these populations will start to look more and more different......at this point of time if someone collects specimens from each population, even though it is clear they are all related I would consider them to be different species......an example of this would be the 3 species: Paph. stonei, Paph. kolopakingii, and Paph. platyphyllum.....It is clear that they are all related, and at one point of time they probably derived from the same widespread species, but due to geographical isolation they are now considered as separate species.

So I would consider my self a lumper if you clearly have gene flow going from one population to another, but I would consider my self a splitter if the populations are isolated, and you have no gene flow going on from one population to the next.

This is just my take on things.....

Robert
 

littlefrog

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DNA analysis has been mentioned. But it won't work. Why? Many many reasons. Some of which. 1) You would need an accurate reference population. If the taxonomists can't agree what species are which, how are you going to get a reference? You would want several (many, actually) 'representative' plants from each species. 2) You have to presume that the populations that are similar enough to warrant the need for DNA testing have dissimilar enough markers to separate. This might be possible, but again it would require an iron clad reference population, which we will never have. 3) DNA doesn't ever answer the question 'are these two separate species?'. Not any better than staminode differences, petal stance, pouch, or any other physical character that is used in taxonomic diagnosis.

Regardless of what we do, we are stuck with a human trying to label things. Nature doesn't care about labels. Nature doesn't care about hybrid swarms at the borders of distinct populations. Nature doesn't know what a distinct population is... It is our human desire to name everything that causes the mess.

DNA would be useful to determine parentage for hybrids of unknown provenance (assuming we had suitable reference sequences). And it certainly helps us figure out the evolutionary relationships between populations of plants (sometimes with surprising results!). But it does nothing to decide the lumping vs. splitting debate.

Yes, I is a bioinformatician...
 
M

Mark

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In my world it really doesn't matter unless you're planning on returning plants to the wild. In captivity selective breeding within a species or to make hybrids is going to push the dna farther from the "natural" composition one would find in a population in the wild than normal evolutionary processes would in our lifetimes.
 
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gore42

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Rob,

You're exactly right... I'm glad that you wrote it, I was going to write the same thing. DNA analysis won't help :)

- Matthew Gore
 

Jon in SW Ohio

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For Heather:

These three plants all originally came from Rands as wild collected plants many years ago. I am not saying definitely that they represent the "type" forms from the descriptions, just that they are as is from the wild population they came from.

Paph. laevigatum


Paph. philippinense


Paph. roebellenii


Jon
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