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

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

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