[Tweeters] Taxonomy

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Jul 16 08:25:39 PDT 2014


Tired of all those bird reclassification's and name changes? All that lumping and splitting going on? Well, do what I do and list with a pencil.
Your pencil should have a good eraser on it - you'll need it for the next name change. The way I list, all this lumping and splitting can be a fun game. Kind of like playing the stock market ,or (whats the difference) gambling. Win some, lose some.
Take a bird like the former Plain Titmouse. I'd seen these birds in both California and Utah decades ago, so after the split into Oak, and Juniper, I got out my ol' list and penciled in a new bird! On the other hand, I lost one species on my list with the lumping of the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Won again on the Winter Wren split. Does adding these split birds seen years or decades before the split, count? On my list they do.
The whole Western Flycatcher thing doesn't bother me: I've never seen or heard a Cordilleran, to my knowledge, so I'm not out anything - just patiently waiting with my eraser to erase Pacific- slope, and re-install Western someday, if necessary. If you have been birding for decades, your pencil list with eraser marks, and insert arrows, can be revealing of the many taxonomic changes going on.
Of course a challenge comes up when taxonomy order changes on a grander scale, like when the whole Order of Ducks and their friends got sent to the back of the North American bird bus, or when the Family of Vireos, formerly cavorting up near the fancy Wood Warblers, got dropped down to the songbird basement.
This is where cut and paste comes in handy - with scissors paper and glue in my case. (Actually, I haven't got around to it yet). For those who insist on organizing on a computer,well whatever.
If you think changes in the Order of Things is alarming in birds, it's even more so in other natural departments. Remember when fungi were plants? Well, not anymore - those toadstools have their own Kingdom now. Brown and Red algae may be in a whole other Kingdom too - not plants anymore - the juries still out on some of that. What is kelp really?
And how about insects. Interesting little Springtails ,(tiny superabundant soil critters) used to be insects, but the last time I looked they've become some sort of other arthropod. And recently I discovered that a whole Order of insects has been "disappeared" - the Order Homoptera has been lumped with Hemiptera, so now Cicada's are bugs, apparently.
Way back in Linnaeus' day there were only three Kingdoms: Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral. That was nice and simple. We could goof around being just plain Animals, even as our bodies were in the transition to the Mineral Kingdom (silver in your hair, gold in your teeth, and lead in your pants). Young or old, all bodies end up being ashes or fossils eventually.
With our hominid DNA soaring above our 90- whatever- percent Chimp baseline, maybe we'll get this whole taxonomy thing nailed down someday , or possibly go nuts trying.
Jeff Gibsonjust sayin', fromPort Townsend Wa






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