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RE: Varanus gouldii complex in Australia

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Posted by: richardwells at Thu Dec 2 21:49:25 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by richardwells ]  
   

Hi Harold,

That the gouldii complex is still unresolved taxonomically is merely another testament to the pathetic state of Australian herpetology in my humble opinion. And I include here the rosenbergi and the panoptes assemblages in the gouldii complex for convenience sake. The only worker that seemed to have any idea at all was the late Robert Mertens and he just scratched the surface of the problem. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that the members of this complex are too poorly differentiated from one another morphologically to be formally recognized as distinctive biological species in their own right - because they are not. I have observed them all over Australia and once you get enough field experience with them in the flesh so to speak, their differences become obvious. A couple of the wider-ranging species do include a degree of variation in colour and patterning, but it's no big deal - other than the fact that both are currently incorrectly assumed to be either V. gouldii or V. panoptes! Most however are very distinct morphologically and I am at a total loss to explain why the so-called experts here have the groups' taxonomy still unresolved. If one can go beyond the sickening extent of taxonomic conservatism in this country we might have a glimmer of hope, but I'm not optimistic at all. But just say that SOMEONE had the guts to allow taxonomic objectivity to be placed ahead of upsetting sacred cows, AND the RESOURCES to to take on the resolution of the taxonomy of the complex, then maybe, just maybe, it could be finally resolved. One key to the problem lies in the collection of sufficient material across the range of all the members of the complex. This is an urgent task. The existing museum collections are inadequate for the most part - other than the Types of course - and even these are of dubious value. As the problem is effectively a continental one, it really demands a concerted, collaborative effort across a number of States to collect such material as would be necessary to effectively analyse the problem. And of course herein lies more problems...petty State parochialism, draconian environmentmental laws, and generally a lack of herpetologists with the ability and committment necessary to tackle the task. Add to this the appalling destruction of habitat here and one is left with the disturbing thought that the problem of their taxonomic status will likely be resolved by paleontologists as the still unnamed taxa will likely become extinct before they are formally recognized. If another person tells me that V. gouldii, V. rosenbergi or V. panoptes are each just a single species I'll vomit. Good luck with "Varanus" gouldii Harold, but don't hold your breath for any significant changes to occur in the near future. Someone could do a "Wells and Wellington" I suppose...but I'm afraid you can count me out...one crucifixion per life-time is more than enough.


Richard Wells


   

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