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RE: Bull snake taxonomy

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Posted by: aspidoscelis at Fri Aug 24 19:47:19 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by aspidoscelis ]  
   

Since this is a "hot topic", maybe I should say something.

First, figuring out what the "real" scientific name is is a bit problematic. Systematists disagree much of the time and there is no governing body decreeing which is right (although CNAH & SSAR both produce "standardized" names lists, these have no more authority than we choose to give them), so all we can do is either look to what the majority seems to be doing or come to our own decisions on what we think is right.

In this case, Pituophis catenifer sayi is the most commonly used name, with the others being synonyms. I don't trust CNAH too much, but they use it. I think SSAR does the same, but I can't figure out how to get to their list at the moment.

My personal guess is that P. c. sayi is more closely related to P. melanoleucas than to other P. catenifer but has moved west since its origin, so that it is now in contact with other P. catenifer rather than to the more closely related P. melanoleucas. If this is right, grouping P. c. sayi based on relatedness or morphological similarity would place it with P. melanoleucas, but grouping it based on interbreeding would place it with P. catenifer. How we ought to classify taxa in this kind of situation isn't entirely clear, but the present generally accepted split between P. catenifer and P. melanoleucas, with P. c. sayi as a member of the former, doesn't strike me as unreasonable.


   

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