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RE: Varanus gouldii complex in Australia

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Posted by: richardwells at Sat Dec 4 02:48:50 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by richardwells ]  
   

Hi Harold,

It is interesting that you raise the situation relating to continental-wide opinions in herp systematics (the old East vs West), for we have had at times exactly the same problem here in Australia. In our case the conservative eastern Staters (where I am located) for the most part were highly dismissive of the taxonomic work of herpetologists in Western Australia. Indeed, I was on occasion in the same room as Cogger and other Australian Museum staff when word of the taxonomic changes by the late Glenn Storr would arrive and I just couldn't believe my ears! Until I met Glenn Storr in the flesh in 1981, I had been raised on a poisonous diet of unfair criticism, invectitude and ridicule, by some who I now realise knew far less about Western herps than was generally supposed. I had actually read everything that Storr had written by the time I visited him in Western Australia in 1981, and quite frankly, the only paper of his that I had any problems with was his Revision of Ctenotus in South Australia. To be brutally honest I actually couldn't wait to read his papers, but I knew that it wasn't real smart to brag about it in the genteel world of Eastern herp polity. But...When I finally met him I knew instantly that Storr was, as I had long suspected, Australia's greatest herp taxonomist. One of my greatest regrets was that I didn't move to Western Australia in the 1970s instead of Darwin, because as I was primarily interested in ecology (and still am), my excess desire for field work would have borne far sweeter fruit had I funnelled material to Storr in Perth. In my opinion Cogger and Storr should have co-authored Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia back in 1975. Not only would that landmark book have been much more accurate and useful, it would have provided a massive stimulation to a number of talented herpetologists in Western Australia to look at material from a broader intellectual perspective. Instead the "all roads lead to Rome" (I mean the Australian Museum) attitude prevailed, and this was a big mistake I think, because it really had the effect of isolating some of the most talented herpetologists in the country - even to the extent of perpetuating two different taxonomies for some groups. I know that some at both the Western Australian Museum and the Australian Museum had axes to grind which made collaboration difficult, I should say that from what I have seen, both institutions have demonstrated time and again abilities, skills and talents that are deserving of high praise. And I suspect the same would be true in the USA. What a pity, this awful tyranny of distance.
On resolution of the scalaris complex, yes I couldn't agree more - I hope it's resolved before the next asteroid impact.
While I have no authoritative opinion in Californian herpetology, it may interest you to know that I have a massive library on that State - in particular its herpetofauna. One of my most treasured books is Stebbins' Amphibians and Reptiles of Western North America. Indeed many years ago I seriously wanted to undertake a science degree at the UCLA, but I spent my savings on field work in the tropics instead...Oh well, you can't have it all Harold...

Regards

Richard Wells


   

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