We might more appropriately look to civil l aw in

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Unformatted text preview: tems, also operating in a complex and murky w orld, in which decisions are reached on a preponderance of M A DAG A SC A R CO NSERVAT I O N & D E V ELO PM EN T VOLUME 8 | I SSUE 1 — J ULY 2013 t he evidence. Still, we have to be careful with our metaphors; a nd the familiar criterion of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ used in c riminal cases may be a little too stringent for some real - world b iological data sets. We might more appropriately look to civil l aw, in which more general probabilities apply. Much as tidyminded systematists might wish they were not, very closely related species are often genetically leaky vessels, which means t hat reasonable doubt as to individuation can in some cases be v ery difficult to banish. As a systematist, I would instinctively p refer in those cases to apply the presumption of innocence, a nd to regard sister populations as conspecific unless there a re compelling reasons to conclude otherwise. But it is also a pparent that from a conservation standpoint the evidence m ight be interpreted differently, particularly where distinctive a nd highly localized populations are imperfectly known; and c learly, in an arena as complex and nuanced as this, a ‘one size f its all’ solution is never going to apply. As in the law, a judicious c ase - by - case approach is indicated. Still, the reasons for adopting a restrained general attitude t oward species recognition are compelling; and they relate not s imply to the multifaceted nature of species as reflected in t he plethora of definitions available, but to the nature of the e volutionary process that produced the diversity we see in M adagascar today. For there is every reason to believe that, far f rom being some kind of passive relict that in isolation long ago e stablished an equilibrium with its environment, the Malagasy b iota is, instead, in a dynamic state of evolutionary flux (cf. c ontributions in Goodman and Benstead 2003). This is perhaps m ore than ever the case since the recent elimination of the i sland’s megafauna. Above the level of the genome, the fixation of heritable n ovelties in local populations belonging to existing species is t he most fundamental process involved in generating biodiversity. This process is synonymous with the formation of those d iagnosable variants we call subspecies. And it is an essential p art of the evolutionary dynamic. To promote all subspecies to s pecies simply on the grounds that they are diagnosable is to r ob the Malagasy fauna of the very mechanism that we know m ust have operated to produce the island’s famous diversity at l ow taxonomic levels. C ONSERVATION AND SPECIES. S o, what does all this imply for c onservation? People concerned with protecting the w hole environment at particular places on the planet’s surface – w hich, captive propagation of individual species aside, is all t hat can be effectively done in this arena – often get rather i mpatient at what they see as the quibbling of taxon...
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This test prep was uploaded on 03/31/2014 for the course ARH 102 taught by Professor Leslie during the Fall '08 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

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