Please permit me to explain. Mayfly Central, which is the recognized authority on mayfly taxonomy in N. America, maintains the list of current N. American species. However, in cases where there is a recognized subspecies, it is listed at that level, rather than at the species level. For example, it lists both Callibaetis ferrugineus ferrugineus
(a northeastern subspecies) and Callibaetis ferrugineus hageni
(a western subspecies), but does not list Callibaetis ferrugineus
. As a result, when one wants to count only valid species, it becomes necessary to eliminate both of the above subspecies, and add only a single species. The N. American Species List
can be accessed by clicking here.
I know. Being a long-time lepidoptera guy (and also "serious amateur" herpetology guy), I have come to find the concept of subspecies to be, well, maybe not exactly a load of crap, but quite often simply a means for professional biologists to justify their jobs.
My overwhelming case-in-point, Homo sapiens. If we apply the SCIENCE of cladistics and systematics to our own species the way we do to everything else, we'd have at least 5 subspecies. But NOOOOOO!!!! that would be politically incorrect. Meanwhile, every time someone at a university swings a net at a Tiger Swallowtail in someone else's back yard, they describe it as a subspecies. If we can't apply the theory across the biological realm, what good is it? I have been ANGRILY rebuked in public by Piled-higher and Deeper brainiacs for bringing up this very topic. Good fun, every time~!
I like this! What are the five "sub species"...political correctness be damned? Negroid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid, ????????? I am at a loss. Or am I off base with my delineations? What is the rebuke by the phD's? What do they say to dispute it?
Without dragging it out too far, there isn't really any universally accepted definition of what a "subspecies" actually IS- for every egghead who religiously (yes, religiously) holds to a set of rules including the subspecific ideas, there is another boffin who disputes it, countering with the concepts of races, forms, populations, etc.
In the vast world of entomology, there are people who are just giddy with excitement to be able to publish a paper describing a subspecies of a known species. Mostly people working in Academia- you've heard it before of these types, "Publish or Perish"... In the high-dollar butterfly collecting world, especially of the Ornithoptera- the huge beautiful Birdwing Butterflies from the tropical Western Pacific, subpsecific identities have been assigned to flies from different valleys and mountains within a few miles of each other!! The subspecies concept used to be applied with the considerations of morphology and geography... Some barrier would exist between populations so they couldn't easily mix genetically, yet they are for all intents and purposes the same genetically- the same species. They may have somewhat different coloration or other minor physical characteristics, supposedly caused by isolation and evolution, but if they were able to make contact their offspring would be viable and able to produce more offspring. So you can go backwards and see that at some time in the distant past a group of the same species became separated geographically and it may even be a gradual thing where the alleged barriers are very porous.
Take an insect such as a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and look at it throughout the eastern half of North America. There is quite a physical difference between average individuals from northern Florida compared to central Ontario. They're the same animal, but several subspecies are assigned based on where they live and "normal" size, coloration, and maculation. Under "natural" conditions, it would be nearly impossible for an Ontario one to meet and mate with a Florida one, but if it happened they would produce viable offspring. It's been done over and over in research. (Don't shoot holes in my example, it's only an example, and the P. glaucus canadensis "subspecies" has been elevated to specific status then demoted back to subspecific status more than once.)
Someone who really knows a lot about Gray Banded Kingsnakes can look at one in a terrarium in Baltimore for example, and tell you with pretty good certainty whether it came from Alpine Texas or Carlsbad New Mexico based on how it LOOKS.
So the main question really is, what the hell is a "subspecies"??? More or less just something to write on a tag so individuals can be GROUPED in a box, DISCRIMINATED between one another, and categorized based on APPEARANCE and ORIGIN. Nothing wrong with that at all, as long as we apply it only to bugs and reptiles and crawly or swimmy things or even White-Tailed Deer... but it forces us to put segments of a species into their own boxes. That is where the meltdown occurs when we get to the species named Homo sapiens. The concept of subspecies REQUIRES prejudice. The brainiacs friggin' HATE that!! How can we apply it within the confines of biology? OH My Gosh... we absolutely CANNOT put any member of Homo sapiens in their own box, even if the vast majority of them WANT to be left in their own boxes!!! Five is a drastically low number of how many subspecies of humans there would be if the concept of subspecies was applied across the biological realm. I said five, it was a number I had heard tossed about before, but it's way low.
In the NATURAL world, could an Unangan ever contact and reproduce with a Kung San Bushman in the Kalahari? Realistically, no, but one could get on a plane in Adak and fly to Namibia and get to work. Is that natural genetic mixing? Is technology a natural part of the Homo sapiens species? Is the average Scandinavian Caucasoid different in appearance from the average Equatorial African Negroid?
My OPINION is that things are either separate species, or they are the same species. Subspecies don't really exist. To other, much more qualified people than I, subspecies are totally valid. If it helps them compartmentalize things, good for them, but I do wish it would either be applied across the board or dropped completely.