Angiosperm Families - INTKEY and WWW Packages

Eric Zurcher ericz at ENTO.CSIRO.AU
Tue Apr 8 12:28:03 CDT 1997

Fellow TAXACOMers:

I am posting the following on behalf of Mike Dallwitz. E-mail and other
network connections to our site have been unreliable during the past few
weeks, and several earlier attempts by Mike to post a response seem to have
failed. Please forgive Mike and me if you happen to receive several copies
of this message!


At 09:06 AM 4/2/97 +1000, John Trueman wrote:

>In a recent posting regarding a new INTKEY database, Mike Dallwitz wrote:

>>Users should note, however, that it is impracticable to account for
>>proposed family recircumscriptions when (as is usually the case with
>>those reflecting recent cladistic and molecular/cladistic studies) they
>>are presented unaccompanied by adequate revised family descriptions.
>>How long will journal editors and referees allow this taxonomic
>>malpractice to continue?"

>Mike, aren't you confusing two quite separate things: the delimitation of
>taxa and the means for identifying members of those taxa?
>I see nothing wrong with defining or redefining taxa in terms of estimated
>evolutionary relationships, and I don't see current cladistic or
>molecular/cladistic practice as being in any way a taxonomic malpractice in
>this regard.

The comment was actually written by Leslie Watson. I (Mike) posted the
announcement because Les is on holiday.

The criticism was not of the classificatory methodology, but of the lack of
adequate accompanying descriptions of the proposed taxa. Such descriptions
might not necessarily allow complete identification of the taxa (although it
would be rather convenient if they did). However, they could be expected to
show tendencies which characterize the taxa. Otherwise, what is the point of
formalizing the taxa? Perhaps a fear that the taxa cannot be adequately
characterized is sometimes a contributing factor to the omission of full

Incidentally, the angiosperm-families database is not intended to be solely
for identification. It contains many characters that are of classificatory
interest (by whatever methodology) and characters of interest to other
biological disciplines.

Mike Dallwitz                                  Email md at
CSIRO Division of Entomology                   Fax +61 6 246 4000
GPO Box 1700, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia     Phone +61 6 246 4075


Eric Zurcher
CSIRO Division of Entomology
Canberra, Australia
E-mail: ericz at

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