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果蝇不是哺乳动物:不能责备科学家采集标本

已有 12870 次阅读 2014-5-1 15:53 |个人分类:生物多样性年|系统分类:论文交流|关键词:标本,生物多样性| 生物多样性, 标本

Science杂志4月18日发表了一篇观点文章,作者指出:科学家没必要采集(杀死)标本放到博物馆去,这会加剧稀有物种的灭绝。这篇文章一发表就受到很多分类学、生物多样性、生态学、进化生物学同行的批评,代表观点认为:该文作者几乎只用濒危脊椎动物来说事儿,很不全面,作者其实不懂什么叫科学采集、分类学和多样性研究(看了这话觉得解气,其实很多所谓的保护学家真不懂什么叫生物多样性研究)。加拿大麦吉尔大学莱曼昆虫博物馆的Terry Wheeler写了一篇不错的评论博文。由于他的博客在wordpress(大陆无法访问),俺把他博文贴出来,值得一读。

A fruit fly is not a mammal, and other revelations from the museum

Posted on April 18, 2014 (by Terry Wheeler)

There’s been a lot of discussion in the past dayabout a new paper published in Science.The paper is an opinion piece about an argument that’s played out many times inthe past, namely: should scientists kill specimens to get them into museumsand collections for future study? (Spoiler alert: yes, they should)

The authors argue, from their experience andperspectives in either vertebrate biology or environmental ethics, thatscientific collecting can, and does, contribute to the extinction of rarespecies. They cite examples of such events. They then offer alternatives to thecollection of whole voucher specimens (things like photographs, tissue samples,sound recordings). All perfectly reasonable on the face of it, except thatpretty much any taxonomist or ecologist or evolutionary biologist who makes useof natural history collections for research knows that the proposed solutionsare just not very realistic, oh and that some of their examples aremisinterpreted.

In the end, this paper will simply fuel theanti-collecting sentiments espoused by a subset of people who just don’tunderstand how scientific collecting, taxonomy, museum research, or globalbiodiversity really work.

Here’s the problem with the authors’ proposedsolutions to the Great Voucher Hunt (well, technically, here are just a few ofthe many problems):

1. The examples highlighted by the authors are avery small subset, are entirely vertebrate centered (except for a singleshout-out to rare plants), and some are misinterpreted. Scientific collectingdid not contribute in any significant way to the extinction of the Great Auk(or many other species). The number of specimens of Great Auks, Dodos,Passenger Pigeons and many other iconic extinct species in museum collectionsis vanishingly small compared to the numbers that were cooked, killed forfeathers, killed for fun, eaten by rats and cats, etc. etc. etc. Blamingscientists for the extinction of species such as the Great Auk is like blamingAlbert Einstein or Marie Curie for Cold War nuclear proliferation.

2. The paper ostensibly focuses on a small andcritical group of (vertebrate) species that are known to be endangered, or wereconsidered extinct and then rediscovered. And yes, it’s right to be concernedabout the long-term prospects for their survival. However, I think that there’sa whole army of other factors we need to be more concerned about (habitat loss,introduced species, pathogens, human activities, climate change) thanscientific collecting. But the authors then extrapolate out to broaderarguments about the desirability of killing for voucher specimens or museumspecimens. Unfortunately, that extrapolation fails because the vast (VAST)majority of species on earth are not in the same category as their examples(even the examples that they got right).

3. Flies are not mammals. Rotifers are notmammals. Neither are fungi, diatoms, nematodes, tardigrades, slime molds,algae, or most other species on the planet. We cannot identify the vastmajority of these species from photographs. We cannot record their sounds. Weusually cannot take a sample of DNA without killing the organism (becausethey’re SMALL). The reality is that in order to document, understand, andimplement conservation strategies (where needed) for most species on thisplanet we have to kill specimens and study them in the lab in order to have anyhope of knowing, with reasonable confidence, what they are.

4. Museums aren’t simply morgues for the longterm storage of dead things. And voucher specimens are not just trophiesfrom our awesome trip to Borneo or Tierra del Fuego. That view is aridiculous caricature. The collection and curation and maintenance ofspecimens in natural history museums is a crucial necessity in documentingbiodiversity. Natural history collections are the source of raw data to addressa vast array of research questions. They are the place where we discover new species,they are the repository of the data that allow us to verify an enormous body ofprevious research. Collections facilitate the great majority of taxonomicresearch. But they do much more than that: collections are the source of datathat allowed us to demonstrate the effect of pesticides on the thickness of eggshells, to document body size changes in species over time as a result ofclimate change, to track the decline and disappearance of some species (and no,NOT by collecting!), and the increase and spread of others. Many excellentauthors in recent years have written about the importance of natural historycollections in broader questions about ecology and evolution. These papers areeasy to find.

Collections already take a bit of a beating fromuniversity and museum administrators and funding agencies because of theshocking lack of comprehension about their unique value and contributions toscience. We don’t need more colleagues adding fuel to the fire simply becausethey don’t understand what we do. It’s not that hard to find a natural historycollection, and the people inside are generally a pretty pleasant bunch. Thework we do may be perceived as old-fashioned and unnecessary. That’s wrong. Stopby for a coffee sometime. We’ll be glad to enlighten you.

1.       Science文章:Minteer BA, Collins JP, Love KE, Puschendorf R. 2014. Avoiding(Re)extinction. Science, 344:260-261.

2.      Wheeler博文链接:http://lymanmuseum.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/a-fruit-fly-is-not-a-mammal-and-other-revelations-from-the-museum/



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