Journal archives for July 2015

July 14, 2015

Using range to identify species

While knowledge of the ranges of various species is no doubt a useful aid in identification, I worry some that using it too much might lead to reduced knowledge of the true ranges of species. If we say "this is such-and-such species because it is the most common species in this area," we produce a self fulfilling prophecy. The most common species becomes even more common (at least according to our identifications). This reduces the likelihood that we gain knowledge about the ranges of similar looking (at least from photographs) species. Yes, I am also guilty of using this crutch. And, I know contributors of observations prefer knowing what species they've observed, even if the identification is tentative and based primarily on range. It's one thing to use range to identify observations of species that have widely non-overlapping ranges, say a species common to the montane west, versus a species of the Appalachians. Or highly local endemics, for instance salamanders endemic to specific caves. I'm more concerned about "the most likely of a few similar species in an area" identifications.

I don't have any good resolution to this dilemma (at least, I see it as a dilemma). Especially since contributors are free to use their best judgement when offering identifications. I certainly don't want to stifle use of the site, through over-thinking this thing.

Has this bugged anybody else, or it just me?

Posted on July 14, 2015 08:13 PM by lfelliott lfelliott | 8 comments | Leave a comment

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