Monday, June 15, 2009

Back from BOU

Back from the BOURC meeting in our secret underground bunker somewhere in, or maybe near (don't want to be too specific) Petrograd. We invented a new word (also see here!). Remember a few years ago, maybe about 10 tbh, when Viz magazine (even back then, it wasn't as funny as it used to be), promised it was going to print the rudest word inthe English language on the front page of the comic and still get into the newsstands at WH Smiths.

I'm pretty sure I know what the rudest word in the English language is... in fact it's so rude the only place I ever see it in print is on Tom McKinney's deceased blog. When the big day came, Viz in fact had cheated and invented a new official rudest word in the English language. The word the came up with was 'fitbin'. Maybe they were hoping it would take off and become a new dictionary rudest word. Anyway, it totally failed to take off and in my entire adult life I have not heard anyone use the word fitbin, even in jest.

Still, not learning from the Viz's triumph, BOURC invented a new word, for those pesky annoying crossbills, petrels of all sorts, and any barcoded species that you might end up having to see but doing so only spoils your birding day - the craptic species.

We consider two or more species to be ‘craptic’ if they are, or have been, classified as a single nominal species because they are at least superficially morphologically indistinguishable. Some authors further stipulate that species designated as ‘craptic’ should be recently diverged, separable only with molecular data, occur in sympatry, or be reproductively isolated; however, we do not regard these as essential features of craptic species. We acknowledge that there is no single best species concept and therefore exclude the latter qualification of reproductive isolation to disentangle definition of craptic species from the quagmire surrounding species concepts.

(See here for a less sophisticated earlier argument)

I have a good feeling that this is going to take off. They should go into their own Category of the Britsh List, in my opinion. Something like Category K.

And also, didn't Springwatch go all moody and serious last week?


Harry said...

So, how similar do two taxa have to be to qualify as craptic? I presume that, say, Hume's Warbler would not qualify as craptic, as birds can be seperated from Yellow-browed on plumage (with care in worn plumage, of course), vocalisations (which are readily heard in the field) and so on, and, despite large gulls being a nightmare, Caspian Gull would just about qualify as non-craptic, as typical examples are seperable, but the likes of Monteiro's Storm-petrel, Desertas Petrel, crossbills, redpolls and so on are certainly craptic...?

Lindsay Cargill (aka Loxiafan) said...

Hi Martin,

I found (accidentally)that by wearing a pair of those crappy cardboard 3-D specs (the one with a red lens the other green) whilst ringing several specimens of each of the crossbill species, that I could in fact in the hand distinguish subtle plumage differences. Using only males,Parrot Crossbills were more 'purple' in hue, Scottish had a strange benign multi-coloured 'chequered'effect across the entire feather tract and Commons varied between dark red and light orange, suggesting in the latter particularly that they might in fact be craptic species afterall.

I am not sure if this was a 'trick of the light' on this particular day (quite sunny) but do you think I should make the findings of this research available for scrutiny in order we might further clarify the status of such 'crap' species ?