OpinionReaders React
Readers React

On the California gnatcatcher and development

Animal ResearchBiologyMuseum of Natural History

To the editor: As the senior authors of the paper on the California gnatcatcher denigrated by Occidental College biologist John McCormack, we wish to make clear that, contrary to his implications, no one other than the authors had any say in the analyses, interpretation or writing of the paper. We stand behind our peer-reviewed conclusion, published in the top-ranking American ornithological journal, that the California population of gnatcatcher does not represent a genetically distinct subspecies. ("The shoddy science behind developers' push to delist the California gnatcatcher," July 2)

McCormick invokes argument from authority in his defense of subspecies status for this charismatic bird. Apparently he knows of a "magic bullet" technique that will verify the subspecies where prior attempts using plumage, size and shape, mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA have all failed.

McCormack fails to mention the larger issue: the exploitation of the subspecies category for political, rather than scientific, purposes. We support environmentalists' wishes to preserve tracts of coastal-sage scrub, but they have alternatives to using shoddy taxonom.

Robert Zink, St. Paul, Minn.

George Barrowclough, New York

Zink is a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota; Barrowclough is the associate curator of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Animal ResearchBiologyMuseum of Natural History
  • Gov. Brown's forced austerity for UC hurts students

    To the editor: Thank you for George Skelton's article on the conflict between Gov. Jerry Brown and University of California President Janet Napolitano over funding the UC system. Skelton hits the right note when he argues that both are holding students hostage. ("Gov. Jerry Brown has plenty...

  • Obama's immigration order is a good start on reform

    To the editor: Regarding your story on immigration reform, your headline made me so furious that I had difficulty bringing myself to read the actual article. Of course President Obama cannot solve our entire immigration problem with one executive order, but it is a start. ("Obama's action on...

  • Help teachers' unions help students

    To the editor: In his final column for The Times, Jim Newton had this to say about teachers unions: "Unions play an important role in protecting the livelihoods of their members, but they don't represent children." ("A journalist's recipe for fixing L.A.," Op-Ed, Nov. 23)

  • Restore the Salton Sea with ocean water

    To the editor: The Times writes: "The price tag for stopping the sea from further shrinkage is estimated in the billions of dollars.... The 'day of reckoning' for the Salton Sea is close at hand." ("'Looming environmental crisis' at Salton Sea prompts plea for help," Nov. 21)

  • Rage in Missouri over grand jury decision
    Rage in Missouri over grand jury decision

    To the editor: The U.S. Supreme Court's much-reviled decision in the matter of Dred Scott (1857) remains the stark reality in America in 2014: Black persons have no rights that a white police officer is required to respect, including the right to life. ("Violence erupts after grand jury fails...

  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict was always about religion

    To the editor: Anyone who thinks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just now starting to turn into a religious one doesn't understand the true nature of the conflict. It is and always has been a religious conflict between the Jews and the Muslim world. ("Israeli-Palestinian conflict shifts...