Sunday, 6 January 2008

Dedicated amateurs

The February issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist includes a detailed article about recent changes in the systematics of Central American cichlids - what used to be the genus Cichlasoma. The author, Wayne Leibel, delves into the some pretty heavy-duty systematics papers and produces a very readable - and very detailed - synopsis of what's going on. For someone who appears to have no formal training in the field, he handles it amazingly well.

This is one of those things that fascinates me. While amateur botanists (and, for that matter, an awful lot of professional plant scientists and ecologists) tend to treat nomenclatural changes with disdain, fish keepers appear different - many seem happy to keep up with the "latest" names. Part of it may come from the fact that fish keepers are often on the leading edge of discovery of new species - newly discovered loricariid and corydorinid catfish are assigned L and C numbers while the hobbyists wait on systemtists to describe the species. But I suppose tropical fish keepers experience tropical diversity in a way that few other people in the temperature zone ever do. And it's a short step from "I want to know the name of my fish" to "I want to know the current name for my fish".

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