aff./cf., other abominations

Barry Roth barryr at UCMP1.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Nov 11 09:40:32 CST 1993

I fully agree that "cf." and other qualifiers are elements of an identifi-
cation, and as such are attributes of a specimen-lot.  Nominally, at least,
"cf." is nothing more than a suggestion to compare a given specimen to a
named taxonomic entity.  On the other hand, "aff." is a loaded tag that
mingles considerations of raw similarity with notions of kinship.  That
the essentially distinct activities of (1) identification and (2) reckoning
phylogeny are not always kept conceptually distinct is apparent even in
some postings on this current thread.

As the editor of a malacological journal, I fairly often see manuscripts
that describe a new species and then launch off into comments how n. sp. A
is "related to" species B in its (for example) shell form and to species
C in its (say) foot morphology.  "aff.", and who knows how many other
inherited conventions of systematic biology, makes this heinous assumption
that overall similarity translates directly into an estimate of kinship.

The use of "aff." or not may be "peripheral" (as in Jim Croft's rather arch
opening ...), but keeping one's thoughts straight about morphology versus
phylogeny definitely is not.


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