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RE: C. bottae taxonomy

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Posted by: batrachos at Fri Apr 4 16:53:48 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by batrachos ]  
   

Haha, my mistake with the rubber/rosy mix-up. I should really proofread my posts.

Like I said, I am not a taxonomist or a geneticist; I just read a few herp taxonomy papers now and again. I am not convinced that MtDNA analysis alone is an adequate taxonomic tool, especially for relatively recently diverged species, but I don't know enough about the statistics and assumptions involved to really dispute the practice. I know a lot of people use it who are much more clever than I am, but it still seems like too little evidence to make strong conclusions from.

I think subspecies are a good way to recognize diversity below the species level. But the new breed of taxonomists are much more interested in the patterns connecting species than in the species themselves. There are a lot of things about cladistic and phylogenetic approaches to taxonomy that just seem to me to be missing out on some of the important things that taxonomy is good for, and also seem to be ignoring some of the realities of organisms. Species are not nodes. But what can you do?

I can see your taxonomic quandary. The vogueish thing to do, I guess, would be to separate the rubber boa into three full species in place of the three subspecies you describe below. If you can sample along the area where the large and small Sierra Nevada populations come together and find a fairly narrow intergrade zone, or an abrupt change from one body type to another, that would be sufficient evidence for separate species status for most splitters. Since the southern populations are allopatric anyways, totally eliminating any possible intergrade zone, that leaves you with three species of rubber boas.

The situation is somewhat similar to the Elaphe obsoleta complex; the morphological and MtDNA data don't line up. In that case, Burbrink et al. interpreted this to mean that the various ratsnake lineages had developed northern dark and southern light populations in parallel. They chose to give no taxonomic recognition to the various color phases within each lineage. Of course, every situation is different, and this might not be the appropriate interpretation for rubber boas.

I hope you can find a more qualified person to bounce ideas off of. It's worth a shot to send emails about the situation to some prominent snake taxonomists, not just ones who have worked with rubber boas.

RE: my user name, "batrachos" is just the Greek word for frog. I studied Greek in college, and I like frogs, so it seemed natural enough. I believe "Batrachoseps" comes from "batrachos" "ceps" (="head". I'm a Tennessean and have little experience with the slender sallies or other western fauna.

Good luck!


   

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