semi-paraphyletic taxa: a new paradigm?

Una Smith una.smith at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 6 16:12:56 CST 1999


Doug Yanega wrote:

>                                            if you want to say anything
>fundamental about diversity, you really shouldn't be looking any higher
>than (morpho)species.

While I agree that many family-level diversity analyses are spurious at
best, I don't think it is fair to say they are *all* spurious.  The key
is to be utterly explicit about what family circumscriptions are in use!
A comparative study of two sites, where a given study species is placed
in the same bin in both sites, has integrity regardless of the sizes of
the bins used.  Of course it would be nice to be able to use the most
appropiate bins, but that is sometimes just not feasible.

Unfortunately, a lot of diversity studies do (in my opinion) fail because
the bins in use are either not comparable between sites or are not even
defined.  The other way that diversity studies fail is in making absurdly
large interpretations from scanty, coarse data.

But these are not faults of taxonomy, nor of any classification system;
these are faults of experimental design and interpretation.  Abandoning
ranks would do nothing to solve the underlying problem, which is general
to all science.

        Una Smith               Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
                                Yale University
        una.smith at yale.edu      New Haven, CT  06520-8106




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