sensu stricto/sensu lato?

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sensu stricto/sensu lato?

When submitting records, on a few occasions I've been offered the choice of either "sensu stricto" or "sensu lato" after typing in a species name (eg the Psocoptera Ectopsocus briggsi).  As I understand it (courtesy of Google) the terms are used when taxonomists differ in their opinion as to what should be included and what should be excluded in a taxon. 

How should a recorder without a detailed knowledge of the species in question decide between the two options?

(I should add that in the case of Ectopsocus briggsi these qualifiers are not mentioned either on the National Barkfly Recording Scheme website or in the RES Psocoptera handbook.)

Good question! I too, would

Good question! I too, would like to hear it answered.

It is very confusing, when someone lik me, with no background in biology, when trying to enter a record, is confronted with "stricto" or "lato" (I thought lato was milk coffee). I prided myself that I was doing well to know the Latin species name, and did not realise that I had to learn the whole b****y language!

It would help if there was a

It would help if there was a third option to choose from along the lines of  "I'm sorry I haven't a clue"!

John H Bratton
Google might be right but the

Google might be right but the terms are more commonly used after taxonomists have made a change by splitting one species into two or more.  For example, the marsh snail Lymnaea palustris was split about 15 years ago into two species. One is named Lymnaea fusca while the other retains the name L. palustris so becomes Lymnaea palustris sensu stricto. The old records now can't be attributed to one of the new species without re-identifying the specimens, so they should all get allocated to Lymnaea palustris sensu lato. Also, because the way to separate the new species is a tricky dissection job, many people won't go that far so will record L. palustris sensu lato. (The genus has also changed to Stagnicola but that is not relevant.)

The trouble is, putting sensu lato or stricto doesn't explain what is being included or excluded. In some genera splits are quite frequent so what is a stricto this year may be found to be two species next year. To solve the problem, records ought to include the identification book or checklist that was being followed when the record was made. That way, the verifier can judge whether the species name is strictly a species or a sensu lato.

So to answer your question, if you are not sure it is safer to select the sensu lato option.

Many thanks for that

Many thanks for that explanation, John.

I'll stick to sensu lato from now on!


Thanks John H Bratton, for a

Thanks John H Bratton, for a very clear and detailed explination. I can see the logic behind it, and approve. What still worries me is that meany wishing to enter a casual record will not speak Latin. It would be nice if something could be done to help the none latin speaker, e.g. putting "sensuo stricto (strictly defined)" and "senuso lato (loosly defined)", or putting an explanation somewhere prominant.

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