Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Mon Jun 16 08:47:26 CDT 1997

At 02:37 PM 06-16-97 +0000, marc sosef wrote:

>Anyone who discusses monophyletic
>classifcation and uses Linnaean caterogies does, in my view, not deserve
>further attention.

And yet, the Linnean hierarchy is the only universally accepted,
internationally regulated system we have available for formal classificatory
purposes.   All the world's biota are classified, at least in a first-cut
approximation, according to this system.  All the names we use are
predicated upon it.   Are we to totally chuck it out, and reinvent the
wheel?  Are we to render a quarter-millenium of work useless and begin again
at Square One?  That doesn't seem very efficient.  Would it not be better
for all parties concerned to compromise?  To try to incorporate as much of
cladistic theory as practical into the traditional Linnean hierarchy?  To
massage the hierarchy enough to accomodate cladistic thinking?   Realizing,
of course, that the fit will never be perfect (the point of my original
post), but that this chimeric approach will prove a whole lot more fruitful
and practicable than any alternative put forth so far.  Isn't this, in fact,
what has actually been happening over the past decade or so -- the
realization that a group's classification need not and cannot parallel the
group's inferred phylogeny 100%?

Cladistics isn't the first assault on the Linnean hierarchy.  Go back and
read W. H. Camp & C. L. Gilly's classic 1943 paper (Brittonia 4: 323-385)
that established biosystematics.  They, too, sought a new hierarchy, full of
"jordanons" and other ranks long since forgotten, because the Linnean
hierarchy didn't conform to their paradigm.  It got a lot of attention at
the time.  But today, it's a historical footnote and the Linnean hierarchy
is still in use.

Thomas G. Lammers

Classification, Nomenclature, Phylogeny and Biogeography
of the Campanulaceae, s. lat.

Department of Botany
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317

"In no affairs of mere prejudice, pro or con, do we deduce
 inferences with entire certainty, even from the most simple
                -- Edgar Allan Poe

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