Paraphyly

William L at
Thu Jun 12 09:09:39 CDT 1997


Gregory Seal wrote:
>
> Dear taxacomers,
>
> I know that not everybody is a cladist, and therefore for them paraphyly
> does not exist.  But if you do adhere to cladistic principles, why does
> paraphyly still exist?  I can understand the need for taxonomic stability,
> especially at higher taxon levels, but at the genus level why does this need
> to be the case?  Part of the problem I think lies in the 'splitter and
> lumper' debate, but to me, if there is consensus among the literature that a
> genus is paraphyletic why is this problem sorted out? Paraphyly is a problem
> but if we work together, hopefully it can be fixed and we may find that it
> leads to a more 'useable' classification.

Perhaps because in some cases we have such a tenuous set of data that it
could just as easily go the other way, depending upon which pan of the
balance the dustmote falls on. If we can't make a secure resolution of
the polychotomy, it is better to leave things as they are until we can,
rather than changing them, then having to change them again. Taxonomy is
a series of successive approximations which approaches the "truth" as an
asymptote.

Will Pratt

--
Dr. William L. Pratt, Curator of Invertebrates
Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History
University of Nevada, Las Vegas Box 454009
Las Vegas, NV 89154-4009
(702)895-1403, fax (702)895-3094 e-mail prattw at nevada.edu




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