Useful Animalia revisited

Wilbert Hetterscheid W.HETTER at PBN.AGRO.NL
Wed Jan 17 10:10:08 CST 1996

In answer to Tim Ross's desperate question what to do with the
versatility of the taxon Homo sapiens in the light of classi-
ficationschemes this:

Tim, you're comparing the wrong things. The recognition of the
TAXON Homo sapiens is biased by evolutionary thinking, telling
us that Homo sapiens is an entity in the evolutionary game
(the "species as individual" idea of Ghiselin) that "appeared"
at some point, and will disappear at some point, never to
return again. In between it will be looked upon as ONE single
entity (either in a classificatory sense, or in an ontological
sense). That is how we look at the taxon (species) Homo sa-
piens. Ethological data found in individuals WITHIN that
taxon, are irrelevent to an evolutionary/phylogenetic classi-
fication until that behaviour starts to become a basis for the
definite separation of populations. In your worst nightmare,
the SPECIES Homo congressicola may evolve, as a byproduct of
continuous inbreeding between members of congress.

However, the classification scheme using the categories "use-
ful Animals", "Useless Animals" and "Dangerous Animals" is not
based on evolutionary theory but on human-interest driven
arguments. In it, individuals (that themselves may be products
of evolution) are regrouped according to non-evolutionary
criteria. Therefore it is a "special purpose" or teleological
classification. I am of the opinion that categories in such
classifications have nothing whatsoever to do with those of
evolutionary classifications (I am getting serious now!). In
the Regnum Vegetabile, a similar situation exists. Many plant
species are recognised in phylogenetic classifications. Man,
in his urge to improve his surroundings with e.g. ornamental
plants, edible plants etc., has "randomly" selected individual
representatives of plant species from nature and through
centuries he has manipulated them, quite independent of the
evolutionary forces that mould species/populations. This
manipulation has unleashed variation in plants that may be
expected never to have had a chance in nature under its evolu-
tionary laws. The resultant "products" are called cultivars.
They are grouped according to all kinds of usefulness criteri-

Strangely however, these cultivars have long been looked upon
as proper taxa and people have tried to fit them into the
Linnean hierarchy and try to apply nomenclatural rules and
mechanisms as provided by ICBN. The resultant chaos is comple-
te. The essentially non-hierachical patterns of diversity in
cultivated plants have been forced into hierarchical classi-
fications, because they were looked upon as proper taxa, and
as such should fit the Linnean system and it's nomenclature.
Result: an unbearably unstable system of classifications with
tremendous inflation of ranks, none of which ever worked but
the most basal one, the cultivar. The only other non-dimensio-
nal (i.e. not subdivided again or fitted in an existing hier-
archy) category that seems to work is cultivar group (see the
recently published International Code of Nomenclature for
Cultivated Plants, ICNCP, 1995).

Your "useful animals", "useless animals" and "dangerous ani-
mals" is such a one-level classification, resulting in enti-
ties that cannot serve as proper taxa in the sense of both
codes or current evolutionary thinking. Therefore, and this is
what I and a colleague of mine (Willem Brandenburg) have
proposed in Taxon 44: 161-175 (1995, see there for more rami-
fications) for plants, I think that classes (!) of individu-
als, based on non-evolutionary criteria (teleologies), should
not be conceptualised as "taxa". For plants we suggested the,
unfortunately unimaginative, term "culton" because no-one had
a better idea. My guess is that in the Regnum Animalia, one
could also use this concept for e.g. classifications of cows
into those suitable for meat production and those suitable for
milk production, or whatever. Or in fungi one might wish such
a classification based on the industrial application of cert-
ain species, or cultivars within those species. In such clas-
sifications, species or sections of different species, that
have no close phylogenetic relation, may be grouped together
for very valid reasons (the user driven criteria). Your con-
gress members could be placed in the culton "useless people"
if so you wish, without disrupting the classification of the
species Homo sapiens in it's own evolutionary scheme.

Etc., etc. but I better stop now.

Wilbert Hetterscheid
Secr. ICNCP (the "cultivated Code")
c/o VKC
Linnaeuslaan 2a
1431 JV Aalsmeer
The Netherlands

vkc at or w.hetter at

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