Gregory <J. at <Gjwc at AOL.COM>.bitnet> Gregory <J. at <Gjwc at AOL.COM>.bitnet>
Thu Jul 27 16:25:28 CDT 1995

Hold on here.  Can any quest for knowledge be empty?  Can any attempt to
understand not only what something looks like as a species, but also how it
fits into the grander scheme of things be bad?  Is it a waste of time to try
to learn?

I don't think that cladistics should be considered a threat to alpha taxonomy
or the traditional view of systematics.  I think cladistics tries to put taxa
into perspective.  I am unfamiliar with the 10% "true" hypothesis and am
curious as to how one can calculate such a number without knowing a true
phylogeny.  But that may be beside the point.

Personally, I believe in doing alpha taxonomy and cladistics.  The two can
exist without each other, though I think they are much stronger together.
 OTU's need not be described species or genera (or any other taxa) but it
certainly, in my opinion, makes the analysis more practical.  Likewise, one
can describe all the species in the world and have a very large list to show
for it, but not be able to explain how they are related to each other without
some sort of concept of phylogeny (be cladistics or phenetics or some other

Should phylogenetic systematics be viewed as more important than alpha
taxonomy?  No.  I don't think any aspect of science should be viewed as more
important than any other.  The two address different questions and really
should not be compared.

As for the question regarding who is learning to describe species.  I don't
now.  When I was in graduate school, most of the other students were working
on some aspect of ecology.  Another student and I were the only phylogenetic
systematics students (She using DNA, Myself using morphology).  There was
only one other systematics student and she WAS doing alpha taxonomy of
rotifers or something.

Are there any graduate programs that emphasize alpha taxonomy and
non-phylogenetic systematics?


Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell
155 Booth St.
Stratford, CT  06497

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