Is there much harm in simply removing “ssp.” from non-botanical taxonomy, since they do use different taxonomical systems after all? It wouldn’t hurt the botanical taxonomy of the site, and it’d make it much simpler for the other taxonomies. We already have certain taxon levels specifically designated for botany, so I don’t see why “ssp.” can’t just be for botany too, besides taking time to implement; I feel it’s a decent compromise.
Yes. When they’re used together, the subspecies is the broader category. Example: Poa secunda ssp. juncifolia var. scabrella (a bluegrass).
However, subspecies and variety are also used independently. Example, Poa secunda ssp. juncifolia and Poa secunda var. ampla.
Botany is usually considered the study of plants, but in some ways it can be considered the study of non-animals. Its taxonomic rules cover fungi and “algae” (plant-like protista) as well as plants.
What’s the point of making such complicated changes if all that’s needed is to make searchbar recognise ssp.? It also can finally start recognising two languages at once, allowing common and latin name to be written together.
Maybe even simpler, have searches ignore ssp., subsp., var., and other rank designators. That way, someone can search for “Poa secunda var. juncifolia”, but the system will search for “Poa secunda juncifolia”, and return whatever matches in the iNat taxonomy regardless of rank.
When I got my PhD in cytogenetics, we placed the bar separating one species from another at whether they could successfully interbreed through a second generation: so a grass whose genes can’t be shared by one that blooms later becomes a separate species; and over time the genome further diverges. In a subspecies, that evolutionary drift is relatively new, and often has the component of geographic isolation; variety is more like race, it’s a collection of genes giving a recognizable trait (color, flavor, height) clustered in a group.
One must take into account the natural setting for mating: artificial insemination and lab conditions may create ligers or a sterile plant nativar, and indeed we’re fooling with nature when we take these steps. Tinkering with gene insertions has too short a history for us to know whether the “normal” genome that evolved over millions of years will tolerate the newbie trait for very long; and considering traits are often multifactorial, likelihood of reversion once exposed to the general breeding population is high.
Sometimes it takes an asteroid to select for positive traits only found in a subspecies.
These are scientific principles! The international scientific nomenclature contained in the taxonomic codes clearly describes the naming rules! You cannot omit /ssp./ because it is a fatal nomenclator error.
Is there a consistent usage for “groups” (applicable mainly to cultivated plants)? For instance, according to Wikipedia, Brassica oleracea crops are subdivided into “groups.” That is, Kale is Brassica oleracea Acephala group; Kohlrabi is Brassica oleracea Gongyloides group. The group names are capitalized but not italicized.
But then I look on iNaturalist, and Kale is Brassica oleracea acephala and Kohlrabi is Brassica oleracea gongyloides. The groups are lower case and italicized, like subspecies or varieties, and lacking the designation “group.”
Meanwhile, Bell pepper is Capsicum annuum Grossum group; but yesterday, when I uploaded a leaf miner observation, I had to misidentify the host plant as “Chili Pepper,” because there is no option for Capsicum annuum grossum; it only allowed the straight species.
The scientific nomenclature of domesticated plants is a mess. Seriously a mess. At one time, most different forms were given scientific names. Often, one form got two or three or more names. Some people feel that most of these older names aren’t useful now. Modern botanists may feel that a different classification system, cutting across some of the old names, may be more appropriate, or that calling them all one species without intraspecific taxa is best.
And what names go with what? As you know, names go with type specimens, but is there a type specimen and if so where is it and, sometimes hardest of all, what is it? Mutants may obscure ancestry. Hybridization has been important in the history of some of our domesticated forms.
Sorting out the nomenclature of any widespread, variable group is difficult. It takes years. In the meantime, some people now use names from any of the different stages of nomenclature in the past, often without making it clear how they’re using the name. And once somebody does clarify everything, do everyone start using the new system? Of course not.
Brassica oleracea subsp. acephala and Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes are validly published scientific names (though currently lumped into the species level by POWO). The Acephala group and Gongyloides group are informal names, probably for the groups of cultivars that fit under those scientific names.
Similarly, Capsicum annuum var. grossum is a valid scientific name, not currently recognized by POWO (and also not in iNat, apparently), and is the likely source for the informal group name.
One of the things I’ve learned in putting together some plant name data sets, by the way, is that however many infraspecific ranks you think have been used in botany, you’re almost certainly wrong. :-)
Thanks for finding that! Voted
Yes, this is a very widespread issue in botanical nomenclature, and the genus Castilleja is a perfect example, with many presently accepted taxa having validly published names at both ssp. and var. level, depending on the authority. The Jepson Manual accepts only ssp., while other floras, including the Flora of North America, the Intermountain Flora, and the Flora of the Pacific NW, accept only var. for use in this genus. So it’s complicated. In most cases with iNat, POWO is the accepted reference for the usage that is most well-established, with var. being the only one established for the entire genus, regardless of region. So, in summary, YES it is quite important to include the most complete nomenclatural name as possible, and it is important to use var. or ssp. for any particular group, as it increases the precision of the identification to some sort of standard.
As several people have mentioned above - there are several Codes of Nomenclature. The Zoological Code really only includes one official rank below that of species and that is a subspecies. It is often written without the Rank qualifier. The Botanical Code (actually Code for Plants, Fungi and Algae) on the other hand includes a number of Ranks (mainly subspecies, variety and form) as well as other qualifiers such as Cultivar. Under the Code it is essential to include the Rank when formally using a name.
It would be a mistake - and scientifically wrong - to just remove the “ssp.” from iNaturalist
It prevents serious taxonomists from confusing taxa like Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. gorilla) as a cubic-gorilla (gorilla3).
That’s the definition I learned in school too but any number of acceptted species with wide integradation zones seems to call it into question. Hello, Lampropeltis and Agkistrodon, Larus, Ensatina and I don’t know how many others…and those are just ones that happen in the field, let alone in captivity. I’ve seen some F2 and F3 hybrids across Lampropeltis and Pantherophis in the pet trade. And those are entirely different genera.
Larinae are also interesting in that they often have different courtships, but it doesn’t stop birds of different sizes and colours to breed
Here’s a link that has a table of different species concepts: https://academic.oup.com/sysbio/article/56/6/879/1653163
I consider the biological species concept (who breeds with whom to produce fertile offspring) the basic one, but organisms have a diversity of breeding – or selfing – patterns. They may evolve to look different, act different, live in different areas – but still retain the ability to interbreed. A popular definition now considers anything with consistent differences to be a different species. Biologists spend a lot of time trying to pin down exactly how to define a species (or subspecies or variety) but nobody really can. Organisms have no interest in what we call them.
Good summary of the problem: Naming Nature by Yoon. More technical work but readable: Speciation by Orr and Coyne.
Ah, the pet trade: these are of course forced matings/inseminations that probably would not happen in nature. Eugenics, if you will.
For sure, many of these new classifications were long after my grad student time, and followed gene sequencing; what I find compelling about cytogenetics is that the ability of chromosomes to match up and go to the offspring-- and then often only one of the chromosome multiples is going to be in play (polyploidy still makes my jaw drop)-- is a species/ evolutionary hallmark. We get back to the idea of species being able to crossbreed: if they can and do, same species, despite the differing trait.
I believe we still suffer from some species being separately described and accepted for long periods, without understanding later that they are the same across many continents.
Here’s one for you: should we call something frozen in the permafrost and reanimated as the same species as the modern one, even if they are 20K years separated?