IAS Aroid Quasi Forum

About Aroid-L
 This is a continuously updated archive of the Aroid-L mailing list in a forum format - not an actual Forum. If you want to post, you will still need to register for the Aroid-L mailing list and send your postings by e-mail for moderation in the normal way.

  Subspecies vs. species?
From: MOTO_DO at t-online.de (Thomas Mottl) on 1999.01.13 at 07:11:28(2889)
What I ever want to know is how is a subspecies defined? No botanist I
asked gave me a sharp definition. Or is it only a point of view?
For. example: The Anthurium guayanum Bunting was in the revision of the
Section Pachyneurinum made to ssp. of Anthurium bonplandii.
Yesterday I get Vol.II Flora of the Venezuelan Guyana.
There I found that Dr. Bunting who write the Araceae part, made this
Anthurium again to a species?
So what is the accepted name?
The only nice definition I found is from Charles Darwin's Life and
Letter P. 105 "Varieties (ssp.) are only small species"
Can somebody give me a hint?
Thomas Mottl
From: alistair_hay at rbgsyd.gov.au on 1999.01.15 at 07:31:37(2901)
Either I have missed some aroid-l messages or no-one has given a broadcast
answer to this HORRIBLE question! Anyway, this is a brief and feeble attempt.

There is no categorical and universally accepted definition of subspecies, nor
species, nor genus etc. They are ALL points of view, though I would dispute your
`only' points of view, since they are usually carefully constructed even though
there may be vigorous disagreement. There is an immense literature on the
subject - particularly of species concepts. At bottom, the definition of a taxon
(i.e. species, genus, family, subspecies etc.) depends on the organism group
concerned and the resources and predilections of the taxonomist working on it at
the time. The evidence on which recognision of discontinuites between plants is
based is empirical and thus `objective', but interpretation and evaluation in
terms of when certain kinds and degrees of discontinuity warrant recognition of
species or subspecies is subjective.

Basically, subspecies are generally used when a geographical race is recognised
within a species - populations which differ slightly from the rest in morphology
and perhaps ecology and which occupy a coherent part of the species' range.
However, if they can be recognised in this way, why not call them species,
instead of creating tedious trinomials?

As to what is the accepted name in a case where there is a difference of
opinion, make up your own mind, or follow the author you most respect!! This is
a case where name changes are based on taxonomic opinion rather than ones
demanded by the rules of nomenclature, so what you accept is up to you.

In anticipation of a rain of abuse...

Alistair Hay

From: "Greg Ruckert" <greg at ezi-learn.com.au> on 1999.01.15 at 14:28:17(2907)
Thanks to Alistair for having a go but I was interested in the difference
between subspecies and variety. We have a number of times where authors
change a variety to a subspecies only to have later authors ignore this and
revert them to varieties. Couldn't one of these terms be reasonably made
Greg Ruckert
From: "Julius Boos" <ju-bo at email.msn.com> on 1999.01.16 at 09:27:35(2912)
Dear All,
First off I believe we all owe a vote of thanks to everyone who has so
kindly taken the time off their busy schedules to attempt to answer what
really is the unanswerable questions!! For me, a special thank you to
Wilbert and Alistair, GREAT information, guys!!!

To put my two cents worth into the ring, I agree COMPLETELY with all that
Alistair trys to explain above, and you did a GREAT job, Alistair!!! As I
have been involved in other scientific disciplines besides plants, a few of
which are a little more clear-cut in comparison to plants, perhaps I can
help A LITTLE with our folks understanding of the genus/speciessub species
As Alistair tried to point out above, all are some persons/Scientist`s
opinion, hopefully arrived at only after long and VERY careful study and
considerations, discussions with other experts, etc., but the bottom line
may be that there is no 'god' of science to make a final judgement as to if
a certain individual`s opinion is totally correct, and the issue remains
open to be changed IF someone comes along with new or better information
that puts the item in a new light, this happens ALL the time, and is why
science of all classes will always be in a state of flux!!
Concerning the subspecies/species 'thing" I give as an example a rather long
story as to why it is important not to jump to conclusions as to this being
an unnecessary thing.
Many years ago, one of my Mentors in Trinidad was a Scientist called Erik
Kjellisvig-Waering, who was the world expert on Euripterids, fossil and
living scorpions, and HIS personal example of a scientist that NEVER made
mistakes was the Englishman at the B.M., Pocock, who published extensively
on W.Indian and other scorpions of the world. One of the things that
always worried the heck out of Erik, was that Pocock had discribed a
sub-species of scorpion from a tiny Island S. of St. Vincent and N. of
Grenada called Bequea, and named it Tityus smithiii microdon, and said it
differed from the Grenadian species (T.s.smithi) by possesing a different
tubericle under the "stinger" (both of these scorps were quite distinct from
the species found on St. Vincent, the next Island 'up' the West Indian
chain, and from the ones found on Trinidad, the next Island 'down' the
chain). To Erik, this did not make sense, as scorpions are particularly
'cut and dried' from an anatomical standpoint, and Erik thought that
perhaps Pocock was to finally be caught in an error, perhaps based on only
examining one specimen that might have had a deformity, but to prove this
theory, several new/additional specimens would need to be collected from
Bequea Island, NOT an easy or common destination to visit back in those
days!!! He made three trips there, and even with the most modern collecting
instruments at the time, U.V. lanterns, had failed to come up with a single
specimen. I was due to go there to collect Anolis lizards for the M.C.Z.,
and told him that I`d get a few for him, and this was regaled by rounds of
laughter, as obviously since he, the expert, had failed to find a single
specimen in three extensive collecting trips, a mere boy would fail with no
U.V.lanterns, and only having two days to collect both lizards AND to try
for scorps.

From: MOTO_DO at t-online.de (Thomas Mottl) on 1999.01.18 at 10:46:14(2920)
Thank you all,
you made a "Blind man " seeing (a liitle bit).
I understand now, why this question is so "HORRIBLE, UNANSWERABLE", but
before asking here Aroid-L, I ask many people, read in many books and no
one and no book ever give me such good explanations about this problem.
There were always those "something small things" or this "certain
different enough" thing, which Julius also wrote, which differs a
species from a ssp..
And in life there are rules for everything, why not for this? So I
thought, when I ask here, someone can give me an answer.
Now I know that it is such a small border between species and ssp., that
only can be seen, with much experience and maybe "feeling" an naturally
many time spending on research ans comparing.
In the future I will try, not to ask after such horrible and
unanswerable things (I hope!).

Thank you ALL once more.

Thomas Mottl

From: Aroideae at aol.com on 1999.01.18 at 14:13:24(2921)
Dear Thomas,

<< only can be seen, with much experience and maybe "feeling" an naturally
many time spending on research ans comparing.
In the future I will try, not to ask after such horrible and

From: plantnut at macconnect.com (Dewey Fisk) on 1999.01.18 at 14:19:16(2922)
No question is 'horrible and unanswerable' !!!! If you don't know, then
ask away anytime about anything. That is the purpose of aroid-l.

Just in case you were wondering.... I did not know the difference and now
I have a better idea... So, your question was good!!

From: alistair_hay at rbgsyd.gov.au on 1999.01.18 at 18:18:15(2923)
The question was excellent AND horrible: excellent to ask and horrible
to answer: maybe that's the definition of a good question. Don't stop!


From: Al Wootten <awootten at NRAO.EDU> on 1999.01.18 at 18:24:27(2924)
Please continute to ask vexing questions, Thomas. At the very least,
we were charmed by Julius' story on the subject, and learned a little
something about scorpions!

Clear skies,

From: Jmh98law at aol.com on 1999.01.18 at 20:25:09(2926)

Thank you for posting your query. It is your question that gives novices like
me the courage to even ask a question. I'm still trying to learn the rules
governing a forum discussion [and I think I've broken at least one or more.
Now that I have read more about the rules, I promise to follow them] .

I enjoyed the roundtable discussion of your subject, subspecies vs. species,
just as I am enjoying other extended and passionate discussions on this forum.
[I think, for example, of the discussion about Philodendron 'Xanadu' ---
"digging" for the answer to a question!] What subject is more deserving of
"passionate discussion" than aroids???

I must confess that, now an incurable collector and hopefully, propagator, of
Arisaema, I am a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe, and have a huge [AS IN HUGE] print
of one of her "jack-in-the pulpit" paintings in my living room ---- acquired
long before my incurable disease of love for Arisaema. O'Keeffe surely
understood the passion of this plant. [Fortunately, my disease is not fatal
--- only incurable!]

From: plantnut at macconnect.com (Dewey Fisk) on 1999.01.19 at 07:10:22(2927)

> [Fortunately, my disease is not fatal
>--- only incurable!]

You are so right about our 'disease'. I remember going into a nursery
years ago and there was the most beautiful Anthurium splendidum that could
be imagined. I had to have it... It was not for sale. I had the rent
money for the coming month in my pocket... I offered. Fortunately, for
the landlord, the offer was turned down.

If this disease were fatal... I would have been gone a long time ago. I
really think it is the reverse. My neighbor and friend is approaching *90*
and has been active in plants for years and, disregarding the calendar, he
is much *younger* than I am.

I have come to the conclusion that this disease is "a good thing".


From: StellrJ at aol.com on 1999.01.22 at 18:48:18(2941)
In a message dated 1/13/99 6:59:36 AM Pacific Standard Time, MOTO_DO@t-
online.de writes:

> Aroiders,

From: StellrJ at aol.com on 1999.01.22 at 18:57:45(2942)
In a message dated 1/15/99 2:16:29 PM Pacific Standard Time, greg@ezi-
learn.com.au writes:

> Thanks to Alistair for having a go but I was interested in the difference

From: StellrJ at aol.com on 1999.01.22 at 19:05:35(2943)
> Although not always, many variegated plants occur on the forest floor. The
> theory was that insects crawling along the floor, would see light coming
> through the leaf, and the paler areas would give the appearance that the
> leaf had already been eaten away in parts, and was not fresh material.
> Who knows?
From: Lewandjim at aol.com on 1999.01.23 at 20:02:10(2949)
In a message dated 1/22/99 9:36:06 PM Eastern Standard Time, StellrJ@aol.com

<< In a message dated 1/13/99 6:59:36 AM Pacific Standard Time, MOTO_DO@t-

Note: this is a very old post, so no reply function is available.