Thursday, 26 June 2008

My Heid is Splitting !

More Gollocks on Bird Forum HERE ( see in particular post #62). Now, it is not that I have a major problem with classifying Loxia scotica as a race of crossbill rather than a species. Rather, the problem is a race of what exactly - Common or Parrot, something which the poster just so happens to conveniently omit ! ? One, would assume the former but how do we know ? The fact that genetically all three are, to all intents and purposes, 'the same' offers no clues either. So, in sharing the same ancestry, which Common, Parrot and even our old friend Scottish clearly must do, when does a clinal form stop being merely a race and become a species in it's own right ? Yep, it's that old problem: it is our definition and understanding of what constitutes a 'species' that is problematic rather than the organisms themselves that just do 'what they do'. I do not profess to understand the mechanics of speciation - I have Ian Newton's fantastic book on Biogeographic Speciation but must confess I only read the Crossbill bits ( and, true to form, looked at the pictures).

There are now hints and murmurs as to splitting Winter Wrens so hopefully the troglodytes of Fair Isle and St. Kilda will deflect from the Crossbills. Who knows, maybe the bird guides from Heatherlea will run trips to these places to show clients 'species' that they themselves do not believe really are species ala what they apparently do with Scottish Crossbill - that is if they (the wrens) haven't all moved to the Lodgepole Pine plantations of Sutherland or hybridised with Hebridean Dunnocks by then (only regular reader to my rants will get this one) ! Maybe they can "work with the scientists on technology" to enable 'retrospective' identification of the vocalisations of the wrens (little hint: it exists already in the form of a microphone, recorder and a copy of Raven Lite-duh).