Botanical Code Article 71

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Fri Mar 17 09:27:17 CST 1995

Date sent: 17-MAR-1995
David Wright wrote:
 >Linnaean categories, or *ranks* are the root of evil in Linnaean
 >nomenclature.  Get rid of "classes," "orders," "genera," etc. and you are
 >left with named clades.  (For example,  "Order Artiodactyla" becomes
 >simply "Artiodactyla").  Get rid of binomials, too, but simply use
 >uninomials for "species" taxa (no numerics, please...).  (And note that
 >jettisoning these arbitrary categories would do away with much of the
 >rationale for defending paraphyletic groups.)

Certainly, ranks are to my mind the least defensible part of the hierarchy.
Nevertheless, abolishing rank would have no effect one way or another
on the need for types (types are of taxa, not categories), or on
many other nomenclatural issues such as priority.  And although rank
misleadingly suggests level when comparing nonintersecting clades (e.g.,
are the Papaveraceae and Asteraceae really at the same level, whatever
that means), it *correctly* signifies inclusion (Encelia is a clade
within Asteraceae, rather than vice versa).

I am concerned that much of the argument so far has focused not on
shortcomings of the Linnaean hierarchy, but rather on stupid things that
people do with it.  Perhaps, as with illegal drugs, we may decide to
ban the hierarchy to prevent its misuse, but I would like to give us
more credit than that.

Curtis Clark                                       Voice: (909) 869-4062
Biological Sciences Department                     FAX:   (909) 869-4396
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at

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