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      The integrative future of taxonomy

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          Abstract

          Background

          Taxonomy is the biological discipline that identifies, describes, classifies and names extant and extinct species and other taxa. Nowadays, species taxonomy is confronted with the challenge to fully incorporate new theory, methods and data from disciplines that study the origin, limits and evolution of species.

          Results

          Integrative taxonomy has been proposed as a framework to bring together these conceptual and methodological developments. Here we review perspectives for an integrative taxonomy that directly bear on what species are, how they can be discovered, and how much diversity is on Earth.

          Conclusions

          We conclude that taxonomy needs to be pluralistic to improve species discovery and description, and to develop novel protocols to produce the much-needed inventory of life in a reasonable time. To cope with the large number of candidate species revealed by molecular studies of eukaryotes, we propose a classification scheme for those units that will facilitate the subsequent assembly of data sets for the formal description of new species under the Linnaean system, and will ultimately integrate the activities of taxonomists and molecular biologists.

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          Most cited references 75

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          Cryptic species as a window on diversity and conservation.

          The taxonomic challenge posed by cryptic species (two or more distinct species classified as a single species) has been recognized for nearly 300 years, but the advent of relatively inexpensive and rapid DNA sequencing has given biologists a new tool for detecting and differentiating morphologically similar species. Here, we synthesize the literature on cryptic and sibling species and discuss trends in their discovery. However, a lack of systematic studies leaves many questions open, such as whether cryptic species are more common in particular habitats, latitudes or taxonomic groups. The discovery of cryptic species is likely to be non-random with regard to taxon and biome and, hence, could have profound implications for evolutionary theory, biogeography and conservation planning.
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            New developments in museum-based informatics and applications in biodiversity analysis.

            Information from natural history collections (NHCs) about the diversity, taxonomy and historical distributions of species worldwide is becoming increasingly available over the Internet. In light of this relatively new and rapidly increasing resource, we critically review its utility and limitations for addressing a diverse array of applications. When integrated with spatial environmental data, NHC data can be used to study a broad range of topics, from aspects of ecological and evolutionary theory, to applications in conservation, agriculture and human health. There are challenges inherent to using NHC data, such as taxonomic inaccuracies and biases in the spatial coverage of data, which require consideration. Promising research frontiers include the integration of NHC data with information from comparative genomics and phylogenetics, and stronger connections between the environmental analysis of NHC data and experimental and field-based tests of hypotheses.
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              Linkage disequilibrium--understanding the evolutionary past and mapping the medical future.

              Linkage disequilibrium--the nonrandom association of alleles at different loci--is a sensitive indicator of the population genetic forces that structure a genome. Because of the explosive growth of methods for assessing genetic variation at a fine scale, evolutionary biologists and human geneticists are increasingly exploiting linkage disequilibrium in order to understand past evolutionary and demographic events, to map genes that are associated with quantitative characters and inherited diseases, and to understand the joint evolution of linked sets of genes. This article introduces linkage disequilibrium, reviews the population genetic processes that affect it and describes some of its uses. At present, linkage disequilibrium is used much more extensively in the study of humans than in non-humans, but that is changing as technological advances make extensive genomic studies feasible in other species.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Front Zool
                Frontiers in Zoology
                BioMed Central
                1742-9994
                2010
                25 May 2010
                : 7
                : 16
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Evolution Genomics and Systematics, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC), Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, Uppsala 75236, Sweden
                [2 ]Department of Evolutionary Biology, Zoological Institute, Technical University of Braunschweig, Spielmannstrasse 8, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
                [3 ]Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, C/José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid 28006, Spain
                Article
                1742-9994-7-16
                10.1186/1742-9994-7-16
                2890416
                20500846
                Copyright ©2010 Padial et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review

                Animal science & Zoology

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