What is the current state of the lumper/splitter debate?
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  #1  
Old 03-28-2023, 02:50 PM
dlewan dlewan is offline
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What is the current state of the lumper/splitter debate?
Default What is the current state of the lumper/splitter debate?

The title says it all.

I haven't been deeply involved in orchid society for almost 30 years and things in and about taxonomy have clearly changed.

S. coccinea and S. cernua are now Cattleyas. Dockrullia has been absorbed back into Dendrobium. I've noticed lots of other stuff too..

Have genomic advances affected the definitions of genus and species? Is there more agreement about classification because of it? (The days of the gentleman-botonist are clearly over.) Who's the current best authority? Kew's POWO seems like a good candidate. What about other taxonomic groupings? Subgenera? Subspecies? Does rank-based taxonomy have a foothold? Academically? In the hobby? Has the web-of-life idea entered the picture?
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Old 03-28-2023, 03:49 PM
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Genomics is the current fad. It will eventually change. Authorities are self proclaimed. Many authorities do little or no fieldwork. Think of it as the Warring States period in Chinese history.
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  #3  
Old 03-28-2023, 03:50 PM
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There's both lumping and splitting going on. While Sophronitis and the Brazillian Laelias are now Cattleyas (the Mexican Laelias are still Laelia) C. bowringiana, C. aurantiaca, C skinneri are now Guarianthe. So pretty much, all the intergeneric names have taken a beating. I'd say that there is more lumping than spitting. (Oncidium tribe for instance, and now Coelogyne has absorbed Dendrochilum and a few other genera, Vanda absorbed a bunch of genera, some other distinctive ones got lumped into Phalaenopsis) Since morphology and environmental considerations no longer have the influence that they used to have to put it mildly, DNA relationships have made some strange bedfellows. In the hobby, most of us don't change tags, at least for a long time. Because new information is likely to change things again. When addressing a plant, just say "Hey... YOU!" Kew certainly isn't the only classification system but it is an 800 pound gorilla... it's the only source that AOS uses. The Kew website is much improved (even having some photos), listing synonyms, but still pretty unforgiving. orchidroots.org is pretty up-to-date with Kew (.com works too), a lot better for searching.

So is there more agreement? Depends on who you ask... I think most hobbyists are pretty frustrated, often resistant. If you enter a plant for judging you need to look up the genus du jour otherwise, nice to know but don't lose sleep over it. Maybe there is more agreement among the scientific community but I wouldn't bet money on it. "Publish or perish" is still the rule in Academe, so there's a lot of motivation for not agreeing.
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Old 03-28-2023, 06:09 PM
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What is the current state of the lumper/splitter debate?
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In my opinion there will never be a final verdict. It isnt because scientists are incompatent or corrupt, it is because there is no real lines in how things are divided.

We all know how much orchids especially can blur the lines that humans draw. Lumpers and splitters dont neccisarily disagree on which organisms are related, they disagree on where the line that divides a species from a subspecies (etc.) lies. There is no objective answer to that.
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Old 03-28-2023, 06:26 PM
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As a hobbyist, what I find problematical with the lumping is that we tend to lose the habitat information that helps us actually grow these. The DNA data certainly shed a new light on relationships, which is what the science of taxonomy/systematics is about. Scientists need to follow the data. Here, there's a selective process as to which data define the structure that humans try to impose on nature. At some point, I suspect that there will be recognition that there are factors beyond the DNA that inform the relationships. And probably more refinements in understanding what the DNA data are telling us. (We already know that epigenetics, the processes that determine which genes are active, also are involved, and a vital part of evolution that facilitate the ability of organisms to adapt to environmental changes) So yes, science evolves, that's the nature of the beast. On the horticultural side (where we as orchid growers live) we still struggle to capture the information that helps us actually grow these plants.
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Old 03-28-2023, 07:18 PM
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What is the current state of the lumper/splitter debate?
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I agree. Ultimately, I believe that the whole genus/species classification thing (probably any classification that attempts to be strict), is inadequate.

In the scientific community it'll take decades to find a reasonable replacement, and then decades more to work out the details and consequences.

On the horticultural side, I have no idea what to expect. It's not even obvious that a new framework would be entertained, let alone accepted. If accepted, then there's all that clerical work of mapping the current approach to its replacement.

It's an unpleasant (but ultimately necessary) transition for all involved. I doubt I'll still be around to watch, but it sounds like it would be fun.
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Old 03-28-2023, 09:16 PM
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Gardeners are concerned mainly with how to grow things. A plant botanist told me a superseded plant name that was given properly in the past is not incorrect. Many of the older classifications made more sense from a horticultural perspective, which is why there is no reason for hobbyists to change their labels.
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Old 03-28-2023, 09:22 PM
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That's right. You don't have to change it.
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Old 03-28-2023, 10:13 PM
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I leave my original tags in the pots and do not worry about it. Most plants have names we know them by as well as a scientific name. I think of it like that. Some of the names have changed a few times anyway since they started this renaming. With some of the older hybrids, it can be hard to find them under their new names.
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Old 03-28-2023, 10:39 PM
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