Algal taxonomy forum: Algal Taxonomy: Ready to Play


Adl, S.

Journal of Phycology 49(2): 226-228

2013


j
Phycol.
49,
226-228
(2013)
©
2013
Phycological
Society
of
America
DOI:
10.1111/jpy.12041
ALGAL
TAXONOMY
FORUM
The
publication
of
a
mini-review
by
Olivier
De
Clerck
et
al.
in
this
issue
of
the
Journal
of
Phycology
presented
an
opportunity
to
open
a
dialogue
on
challenges
faced
by
contemporary
algal
taxonomists.
The
Editorial
Office
solicited
the
following
two
additional
contributions
in
response
to
De
Clerck
et
al.'s
paper;
the
responses
were
edited
solely
for
clarity,
space
and
format.
Algal
Taxonomist,
Let
Serendipity
Reign!
Olivier
De
Clerck
et
al.'s
"Algal
taxonomy:
a
road
to
nowhere?"
is
a
snapshot
of
man's
progression
in
the
communication
of
"what
alga
is
this?"
The
primitives
utilitarian
views
(can
I
eat
it?)
were
classified
into
an
unnatural
but
intellectually
satisfying
system
by
Carl
von
Linne
and
later
subjected
to
evolutionary
considerations
as
a
result
of
Charles
Darwin's
contributions.
Since
then
our
understanding
of
algal
relationships
has
advanced
mostly
as
a
result
of
novel
technol-
ogies—electron
microscopy,
bio-
chemistry,
etc.,
and
most
recently
molecular
genetics—all
of
which
do
not
assist
at
the
practical
level
of
"what
alga
is
this?"
While
the
pharmacologists,
horticulturalists,
hobbyist
and
the
like
need
com-
municable
names,
those
interested
in
assessing
diversity
and
phyloge-
nies
do
not;
a
nucleotide
sequence
will
do.
The
authors
point
out
the
lag
between
species
discovery
and
for-
mal
description.
If
our
modern
molecular
ways
are
just
another
stepping
stone
to
taxonomic
and
evolutionary
truth,
only
to
be
replaced
by
something
else
(pro-
tein
folding
patterns
or
an
as
yet
unimagined
Rosette
Stone
or
Divine
Intervention),
let
the
lag
exist.
Let
phycologists
continue
describing
entities
defined
by
DNA
and
pray
governments
will
support
this
noble
endeavour.
And
let
new
approaches
evolve.
A
snippet
of
the
alga
in
question
with
cryogenic
preserved
DNA
and
"field
notes"
could
constitute
the
modern
algal
herbarium for
future
taxonomists
(robots?).
Concern
is
expressed
over
inte-
grating
historical
collections
into
modern
taxonomic
research
and
expanding
Latin
binomials
to
molecularly
discovered
taxa.
The
high
degree
of
uncertainty
in
existing
names
and
of
accessioned
specimens,
and
the
discovery
of
"cryptic
species"
suggests
that
we
may
be
at
a
juncture,
not
unlike
those
presented
by
von
Linne,
and
later
Darwin,
where
present
condi-
tions
dictate
drastic
reorganiza-
tion.
Personally,
I
like
musty
herbaria
and
binomials...engi-
neers
have
their
slide
rules
and
taxonomists
have
their
Latin.
The
authors
suggest
some
kind
of
Phy-
cological
United
Nations
be
com-
missioned
to
consider
wither
hence.
From
the
tone
of
De
Clerck
et
al.'s
article,
I
suspect
a
danger
of
such
a
commission
becoming
polarized.
Perhaps
com-
mittee
members
could
be
selected
by
lottery
from
a
pool
of
qualified,
disinterested
candidates.
Louis
Druehl
Bamfield
Marine
Sciences
Centre,
Bamfield,
BC,
Canada
VOR
1
BO
Algal
Taxonomy:
Ready
to
Play
The
minireview
on
"Algal
Tax-
onomy"
by
0.
De
Clerck
and
col-
leagues
focuses
on
a
theme
that
has
garnered
significant
attention
in
the
news
the
last
couple
of
years.
The
theme
has
two
aspects:
first,
whether
we
have
a
good
knowledge
of
the
earth's
biodiver-
sity,
and
second,
whether
we
are
addressing
biodiversity
effectively.
The
more
philosophical
issue
of
whether
knowing
about
this
biodi-
versity
matters
is
addressed
more
briefly.
The
study
specifically
focuses
on
the
current
state
of
algal
biodiversity,
and
proposes
solutions
to
consider
in
ameliorat-
ing
the
databases
of
species,
the
description
of
new
species,
and
their
classification.
Some
of
the
criticisms
directed
at
failures
of
the
inherited
system,
the
"dead
weight
of
the
past"
as
it
were,
echo
discussions
and
points
of
view
expressed
in
the
systematic
and
taxonomy
literature
more
broadly
(de
Queiroz
1997,
Pleijel
and
Rouse
2003,
Cantino
2004,
Adl
et
al.
2007,
Laurin
2010).
These
include
retaining
an
emphasis
on
name
stability
when
rank
or
genus
is
changed,
using
a
system
compatible
with
phyloge-
nies
and
tree-thinking,
separating
naming
clades
from
assembling
nested
hierarchies,
modernizing
what
is
an
acceptable
type
speci-
men,
addressing
the
incompatibil-
ity
of
codes
of
nomenclature
and
taxa
named
under
more
than
one
code.
The
point
is
all
the
more
serious
as
the
authors
suggest
about
half
of
the
described
algal
species
are
"invalid"
or
"illegiti-
mate"
according
to
the
botanical
code
(The
International
Code
of
Nomenclature
for
Algae,
Fungi
and
Plants,
Mcneill
et
al.
2012).
Clearly,
something
is
not
working
with
the
existing
process.
Attempted
solutions
to
these
issues
have
been
diverse,
but not
as
well
coordinated
as
they
could
be,
in
part
due
to
independence
of
similar
projects
progressing
in
parallel.
The
point
is
made
by
the
authors,
but
it
needs
to
be
empha-
sized.
Many
have
tried
but
fewer
received
funding,
to
create
and
curate
online
databases
of
species.
226
ALGAL
TAXONOMY
FORUM
227
These
attempts
most
often
address
a
precircumscribed
diversity.
The
obvious
problem
that
is
generated
by
this
approach
is
the
variations
in
the
classification
used
to
orga-
nize
the
diversity,
and
in
the
soft-
ware
programming
used
to
create
the
databases.
Although
we
now
have
several
such
publically
acces-
sible
databases
maturing,
most
are
incompatible
with
each
other,
because
of
both
incompatible
soft-
ware,
and
incompatible
classifica-
tion.
Thus,
there
is
a
fragmented
functional
landscape,
and
some
of
the
efforts
will
eventually
have
been
futile
if
they
cannot
be
merged
with
other
databases
to
span
a
greater
range
of
taxa.
In
time,
we
will
have
fewer
number
of
database
variants
each
with
dif-
ferent
emphasis
and
uses,
as
merg-
ers
and
dead-ends
take
their
course.
The
more
contentious
issue,
underpinning
the
incompatible
programming
and
classification
problem
above,
is
how
to
name
the
newly
discovered
diversity.
The
subject
has
a
deep
history
of
ran-
corous
debates
that
can
be
traced
back
into
the
early
19th
century.
Surprisingly,
few
new ideas
exist,
and
the
topic
persistently
lingers
in
the
background
of
natural
his-
tory.
One
aspect
of
the
problem
is
to
maintain
name
stability
and
type
traceability,
when
a
species
is
moved
to
a
new
genus.
This
is
very
difficult
with
the
Linnaean
bino-
mial
system.
There
are
numerous
recent
studies
to
consult
for
a
modern
description
of
these
issues
and
suggested
solutions
(see
Adl
et
al.
2007).
Another
aspect
is
how
to
retain
name
stability
when
the
whole
classification
and
ranking
is
being
rearranged
repeatedly
(Adl
et
al.
2005),
although
this
has
no
doubt
slowed
considerably.
As
the
authors
De
Clerck
and
colleagues
noted,
the
published
literature
contains
solutions
and
it
is
not
necessary
to
have
a
genus-epithet
specifier
to
name
a
species
or
data
taxa;
it
is
com-
mon,
especially
with
environmen-
tal
sequence
information,
to
have
sequence,
Glade,
specimen,
or
strain
identifiers,
and
this
approach
has
worked
relatively
well
for
the
prokaryotes
for
dec-
ades.
A
third
difficulty
in
naming
species
is
the
cryptic
diversity
that
exists
at
the
subgeneric
level
for
protists
where
there
are
often
insufficient
morphological
clues
(Foissner
2006,
Adl
and
Gupta
2007).
I
was
pleased
to
see
the
authors
address
cryptic
species
and
species
known
from
only
one
or
very
few
specimens.
Without
several
specimens,
and
ecological
information
on
the
isolates,
it
is
difficult
to
know
what
delineates
species.
Some
variation
is
natural
within
a
taxon,
and
it
does
not
a
new
species
make
(Darwin
1859).
When
only
one
or
very
few
speci-
mens
are
known,
it
is
precaution-
ary
to
provide
a
temporary
identifier
for
the
isolate
instead
of
establishing
new
species.
From
a
practical
perspective,
improvements
both
in
how
new
specimens
or
new
environmental
sequence
information
is
handled,
and
in
how
they
are
catalogued,
will
determine
our
effectiveness
at
describing
the
remaining
diversity
on
earth.
Although
the
philosophi-
cal
debates
on
naming
species
and
systematics
will
continue,
the
cata-
loguing
of
species
is
a
more
mechanical
and
mundane
process.
Nonetheless,
it
is
the
key
function
that
determines
our
ability
to
know
what
diversity
we
have.
A
type
speci-
men
or
a
species
description
is
only
as
useful
as
its
accessibility.
If
it
can-
not
be
retrieved
or
accessed
easily,
it
will
lead
to
redescriptions
with
the
ensuing
synonym
duplications.
As
the
authors
remark,
difficulties
retrieving
algal
types
has
led
to
a
ratio
of
3-5
to
1
of
synonyms
and
names
of
uncertain
affinity
against
accepted
species.
In
addition,
the
authors
remark
that
using
Gen-
Bank
as
an
example,
the
percent-
age
of
properly
named
algal
sequences
decreased
from
90%
in
1993
to
<20%
in
2010
as
new
envi-
ronmental
sequence
information
was
submitted.
Adding
this
"dead
weight
of
the
past"
(Godfray
2002)
to
the
"dark
taxa"
that
represents
sequence
information
not
linked
to
known
species
and
not
described
as
new
species
(Page
2012),
anyone
familiar
with
sampling,
collections,
and
databases
can
see
the
magni-
tude
of
the
problem.
The
final
point
that
I
would
like
to
emphasize
is
the
connectedness
between
the
themes
above
(naming
subgeneric
diversity
and
its
classifi-
cation,
cataloguing
and
archiving
of
the
type
specimen
and
their
descriptions)
with
the
rate
of
new
species
discovery.
The
bottleneck
is
no
longer
discovering
new
species,
as
environmental
sequencing
infor-
mation
from
DNA
sequences
gen-
erate
taxa
data
faster
than
one
can
analyze
it.
The
difficulty
is
in
taking
the
time
to
link
a
sequence
with
a
known
species,
and
in
understand-
ing
what
level
of
sequence
differ-
ence
warrants
a
new
subgeneric
description
in
absence
of
ecological
data.
The
latter
varies
between
stems
in
phylogenetic
trees.
There
is
the
additional
caveat
of
sequenc-
ing
errors
introduced
by
laboratory
technology.
The
bottleneck
is
in
sorting
through
the
synonyms
and
unnamed
sequences,
and
linking
new
sequences
with
a
living
thing.
An
additional
complication
is
that
those
that
work
with
the
DNA
sequence
taxa
data
are
typically
not
those
that
understand
the
taxa,
where
the
type
specimens
are
located,
and
their
descriptions
in
publications.
Both
processes
have
their
specialists
and
their
pace
of
progress.
Particularly
difficult
is
finding
type
specimens
or
descrip-
tions
where
there
have
been
changes
in
names,
or
where
a
par-
ticular
specimen
is
miscatalogued
using
a
different
classification
sys-
tem,
or
discovering
that
a
particu-
lar
collection
no
longer
exists.
However,
it
is
not
an
impossible
task
and
the
authors
point
to
the
accomplishment
of
the
plant
com-
munity
(sensu
Embryophyta
Engler
1886,
emend.
Lewis
&
McCourt
2004)
in
sorting
this
out.
Where
I
disagree
with
the
authors
is
their
opinion
that
this
can
be
achieved
by
the
algal
socie-
ties.
We
have
known
since
the
1970s,
if
not
since
Haeckel
(1866,
1894)
that
protists
cannot
be
sepa-
rated
into
algae
and
other
things.
The
solution
will
have
to
involve
all
protistological
societies
and
228
ALGAL
TAXONOMY
FORUM
researchers,
including
close
discus-
sions
with
mycologists.
Part
of
the
solution
will
be
to
dissociate
the
problem
from
the
historical
dead-
weight
imposed
by
the
legacy
of
the
zoological
and
botanical
codes
of
nomenclature,
which
are
incompat-
ible,
on
the
entangled
protists
(Adl
et
al.
2007,
2012).
Overall,
I
am
not
as
pessimistic
as
the
authors,
and
I
think
the
protist
community
can
complete
the
task
of
discovering
the
remaining
spe-
cies
on
earth,
and
determine
par-
tially
what
each
does
in
a
reasonable
time
frame.
As
the
authors
note,
sev-
eral
recent
studies
showed
that
there
is
greater
taxonomic
effort
now
than
before,
and
for
algae,
there
are
about
four
times
more
people
involved
in
species
discovery
in
2010
than
in
1900.
The
species
discovery
curve
for
algae
(for
pro-
tists
in
general,
see
Mora
et
al.
2011)
continues
to
increase
linearly
and
does
not
seem
to
approach
an
asymptote.
There
is
a
massive
amount
of
new
information
accu-
mulated
since
2000
with
environ-
mental
genomic
protocols.
The
recommendations
offered
by
the
authors
are
reasonable
and
echo
those
previously
stated
by
Adl
et
al.
(2007).
Given
the
pace
of
techno-
logical
advancement
over
the
past
decades,
I
think
we
will
manage
to
sort
this
out.
Stable
funding
for
most
properly
curated
type
speci-
men
registries
and
collections
has
been
lost;
many
were
in
universities.
These
disparate
collections
need
to
be
migrated
in
a
standardized
way
into
online
national
databases
to
provide
accessibility
in
every
labora-
tory
where
they
are
needed.
Addressing
the
standardization,
accessibility
of
the
collections,
infor-
mation
retrieval
limitations,
and
nomenclature
issues
will
happen
with
all
its
politics
and
arguments,
as
scientists
eventually
do
when
they
come
together
and
agree
on
a
com-
mon
problem
that
needs
to
be
resolved
for
the
sake
of
progress.
We
must
look
forward
to
addressing
these
issues
at
an
inter-
national
level
among
ourselves,
securing
funding
nationally
at
a
level
appropriate
for
the
magni-
tude
of
the
project,
not
just
for
each
individual
research
labora-
tory.
The
current
national
funding
situation
for
diversity
across
Eur-
ope
and
North
America,
is
woe-
fully
inadequate
(Godfray
2007).
It
resembles
that
of
a
knight
spend-
ing
all
their
money
building
better
armour
to
fight
a
challenge
-
but
when
it's
time
to
ride
the
horse
out
of
the
gate,
the
horse
is
no
longer
up
to
the
task
because
it
was
not
well
fed.
How
can
we
spend
so
much
of
our
national
budgets
on
so
many
projects,
while
cutting
back
decade
after
decade
on
exploring
and
conserving
the
diversity
of
life
where
we
live,
at
the
expense
of
managing
our
liv-
ing
environment?
This
particular
task
is
probably
as
costly
as
space
and
subatomic
international
research
projects,
but
more
press-
ing
in
urgency
and
immediacy
in
impact.
A
convenient
measure
for
progress
would
be
to
recall
Elton's
lament
almost
a
hundred
years
ago
that
asked
"why
count
stars
and
not
animals?"
(Elton
1927).
Although
ecology
has
since
made
tremendous
conceptual
progress,
it
was
mostly
relevant
to
animals
and
plants,
and
it
occurred
based
on
a
fraction
of
the
diversity
of
life.
But,
as
we
have
known
since
Lamarck
(1809),
most
diversity
is
microscopic,
and
our
understand-
ing
of
the
biome
is
only
as
good
as
our
understanding
of
how
the
species
in
it
interact
to
sustain
our
living
environment.
Sina
Adl
Department
of
Soil
Science,
University
of
Saskatchewan;
Past-President,
International
Society
of
Protistologists;
Chair,
Committee
on
Systematics
and
Evolution,
International
Society
of
Protistologists;
Nomenclature
Committee
for
Algae,
International
Code
of
Nomenclature
for
algae,
fungi
and
plants
e-mail:
sina.adlitusask.ca
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