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[aroid-l] Bar Codes for God

  • Subject: [aroid-l] Bar Codes for God
  • From: "Ron Iles" roniles@eircom.net
  • Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 21:58:41 -0000

I am in awe of the beautiful work posted on the IAS Web Site by Wilbert &
his Friends, thank you

For prime reasons within three months another "Ark" must have accepted the
responsibility for this unique World Peace Lily Collection & I will no
longer be involved in botanical work. So, forgive me if this note to line is
not as literate as I would expect but time now is so extremely limited but
it is intended to be positively helpful as always.    In it I wonder about
names, labels, evolution, & what things really are & what they seem.

In these DNA focussing times what definitive & phyllogenetic value does
empirical taxonomy have when it is based predominantly on morphology, i.e.
mostly what a thing just looks like even dead, squashed & dried?

Is not DNA fingerprinting a more reliable basis for defining true or false
relationships between different or
similar > looking kinds?    Does not morphological empiricism serve
vocational & recreational debate more than
the indisputable Nature & evolutionary standing of the plants themselves?

Are not the functional morphologies of living organisms evolutionary
adaptations to optimum & tolerated environments, habitats, niches,
conditions etc?    How common is parallel evolution, adaptive radiation,
evolutionary convergence & divergence between genera, species etc in the
Araceae anyway?   Clearly the true Nature of aroids depend on these things &
their morphologies are but the resulting appearances?

If  aroids were "numbered", bar-coded according to their DNA structures
complexities, would their phyllogeniesy,kinship & evolutionary origins &
patterns just fall out naturally with minimum massage by taxonomy. What then
need for definitive "names" of  "species", genera, sections?   Would the
Linnaean binomial system become as
irrelevant as it is now seems inadequate?  Would a bar coded DNA basis for
identification, "naming", make "compartmentalisation" un-necessary.  Could
there be continua, recognition of kinds intermediate between the then
redundant "box barriers" of species, sections, subsections, genera?  Is the
aged first name & surname Linnaeus classification primed for extinction?
Presented with unequivocal data on genetic origins & affinities, would we
need empirical taxonomic
airbrushing such as, lumpers & separaters any more,  Would Evolution be
manifest in "God Numbers" in the CONTINUA.   Could those darn human boxes
gradually be thrown into the infant play pen?  Was not the original
definition of SPECIES just that kind that could produce fertile progeny.  In
the present situation where countless different species are hybridised ad
nauseam what IS a species?  In other familes than the Araceae there are
intergeneric hybrids which seems to render certain bolstering tenets of
conventional taxonomiy even more eyebrow raising.  How useful in this age is
taxonomy relying on morphology alone?

Regardless of the different name calling by botanists, horticulturist & pet
plant owners, how soon before a bar code label can be padlocked to each
plant with a computer generated God Number reflecting its true NATURE on a
DNA basis.   If the reference plant loses its digital identity card it goes
back for authentication to the DNA Lab or is eliminated from the world of
decent & respectable plants?  By relying on the infallibility of holy DNA &
thereby knowing the true heritages can we
then be sure of purity of lineage or otherwise?  An eugenic aroid Elysium?

Having access to "God Numbers" reflecting the basis of aroid Natures &
Origins, could taxonomists concentrate on relating these to the geography,
ecology & physiological adaptation of "species" in the field.......whilst
there is still a choice of "wild" DNA diversity & before this is modified,
mangled & resynthesised for domesticated horticulture?   Before Nature in
the wild is rarer & Man himself is modified artificially & has bar codes
instead of names?   Without a "Stud Book" of their Natures & Origins, more &
more aroids are being "improved" to be "better than Nature" by
"hybridisation" of "species" & inbreeding, genetic modification, radiation,
chemical treatment or other wondrous Brave New World technology.

In the brave new world soon upon us, taxonomists & collectors can be
immortalised in new wild or man-made plant species by having their own
personal finger print DNA God numbers added to the plant bar codes as well?
A numeric taxonomic chimaera?   Wilbert-Amorpho-titanum titanum titanum
titanum in wondrous numbers in full colour living forever into the Third
Millenium even though an extra hundred titanum numbers have had to be added
due to horticultural radiation technology!

Are we at the beginning of the end for residual "old-fashioned"
predominantly morphological taxonomy?

I just wonder about it that's all, probably many others have done so before
or maybe DNA
> techniques have to evolve further?   On the basis of what plants REALLY
ARE, not just SEEM, is taxonomy itself evolving to become less subjectively
"analogue" & more objectively "digital"?

How long before we know what all our plants REALLY ARE, their genealogy, to
be able to call them whatever legitimately we like provided we have a
computer DNA bar code label?

There are probably >fifty "species" of Spathiphyllum here.  The
conventionally defined term "species", indeed even
"section" often appears meaningless.   "Species" from Sections Massowia,
Amomophyllum & Spathiphyllum often hybridise freely.  In the genus if one
looks at just the morphological characteristics without fullest details of
environment, habitat, distribution, niche, ecology etc, etc, theories about
their phyllogeny & therefore their taxonomy are surely bound to be
handicapped by guesswork. e.g > I have many VERY different "species" sent
authoritatively labelled.  There are many different "Spathiphyllum patinii",
one "kind", a lovely delicate probable new species, my favourite, & there
are very many S. "wallisii" & S. "clevelandii" varying hugely. In & BETWEEN
all of these the great variation does not permit taxonomically nice &
comfortable "species" compartmentalisation.  These phenomena are rife in the
whole genus, almost EVERY "species" varies.   For me I don't need to know
what each SEEMS & is called but I do need to know what it really IS, to
relate to the overall phyllogeny & > kinship of the "group" as manifest in
the genes.    With the massive commercial hybridisation in "Peace Lilies"
using "undefined" "species", depressingly, confusion increases in the
"Genus" daily.

So I have despaired of the seemingly arbitrary & wildly variable "naming" in
"look-alike" & sometimes not look-alike Spathiphyllum.  With so many
possible "missing links", wide distribution, sparse collected wild material,
I feel proclamation on how they evolved, their phyllogeny, & justification
for any genus "sectioning" on my part would be subjectively impertinent &
presumptious..  In the perceived impossible morasse I cannot justify
treading where angels fear.   Finally, are not both evolutionary processes &
DNA codings continua?   Is not Linnaean taxonomy an empirically
compartmentalised discontinuum.  For valid identification & how things came
to be do we NEED names & authoritative naming at all now?  How much longer
do we need binomial taxonomy?

A Happy Valentine's Day to you All

Ron Iles

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