going rankless (was Article 71...)
NCLARK at MUSEUM.GLA.AC.UK
Wed Mar 22 14:37:19 CST 1995
dwright at u.washington.edu wrote:-
> It would not be absolutely necessary to join the genus and species
> with a space-filling character, but I think it might help to avoid
> confusion of the old "genus" part of a frozen species-name with that
> simple unranked clade.
It would certainly cause more confusion when a species is found to
belong to another genus. What happens? Do we change only the
first part of the mononomial? The binomial system is so useful in
understanding the basic useful relationships between organisms that,
I for one, would find it substantially more difficult to convert to a
mononomial system. At least with a binomial and hierarchical
system (no matter how loose or subjective) allows us to know what
group/clade we are studying. So far I have not seen any reason to
change because the alternatives do not seem any different except
that the hierarchical nomenclature is absent (the groupings are still
there, but what the groupings are called has changed or
> Perhaps simply rigorously maintaining the
> convention of italicizing species names would be sufficient to
It is certainly useful to italicise to emphasise the difference
between latinised terms and normal text (as well as making it easier
to spot a species in a manuscript for speed reading:-).
> The exact typographical convention finally chosen is not crucial to
> consider the possiblity (and not worth arguing about); I used the
> connecting-character approach above to emphasize the uninomial
> species names. Note that it is possible to mention the name of a
> inclusive taxon to provide a context for a species (it simply is not
> necessary to do so to identify a species). This unranked system
> preserve historical priority of names, etc.
(which may be wrong, and frequently is!)
> But the names of species
> would not change even if they were transferred out of Parus into a
> different clade:
This would certainly cause a lot of problems as you would have the
same root for unrelated organisms (more than is the case using the
binomial system). Anyway, this would produce the equivalent of
another binomial using a different heirarchical level (ie using the
example quoted: Paraparus (new clade) read new genus
Parus-rufescens (Species) read subsumed species (old
genus/species binomial) producing the new cladistic binomial at a
different hierarchical level: Paraparus parus-rufescens).
> Another possiblity would be to simply separate the specific/trivial
> of existing binomials from the genus part, but that would result in
> massive numbers of homonyms to deal with.
> Why bother changing? Again, that is a distinct question.
I agree! Why bother changing?
> Here I merely
> wanted to point out that many of the faults attributed to a rankless
> system over the past few days simply do not exist.
Correct, as all that seems to be happening is a reintroduction of
another ranked system with no names which, for some reason,
people appear to consider as being rankless. I see little difference
between the Linnaean system and the 'rankless system' except a
change in nomenclature. The subjectivity is still there as well as the
ranks, the only differing point is perhaps where the ranks diverge.
> The main benefit cited for ranks (which no one
> tried to defend as natural) is that they provide mental crutches that
> us to remember which groups are more or less inclusive in a
I don't think that the 'rankless' system is any more or less natural.
Perhaps the use of more characters in analyses makes us feel that it
is more natural but the choice of characters is still subjective.
> Does anyone really believe ranks are *necessary*?
> Ranks distort the way we view and interpret biological
Only when we don't understand the limitations. The same is with any
system, 'rankless' or not.
> PS -- nobody really took on the question of whether or not types are
They are. If you want to do any comparative taxonomy, it is important
that you have something to compare with. A diagnosis is highly
subjective and may not contain characters that may be seen to be
more important in future diagnoses. We cannot imagine what the
future may hold and I, for one, would not want to deprive scientist of
the future having the opportunity to use type material for comparison.
It would be very easy to produce a false diagnosis along with
morphed computer images if we were not pure of heart. If there was
no rules for type material to be preserved, it would be difficult to
prove a falsehood. I am sure that we scientists are all honest though
and that this situation would never occur.
If I have misunderstood anything, or misrepresented any
interpretation, please inform me.
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