Fungi and Four Kingdoms

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 2 22:44:22 CDT 1999

     I will not discuss or try to defend the Linnean System here, since
Kipling Will has done that below.
      However, your statement that Protista is polyphyletic is erroneous.
It is clearly paraphyletic, whether you removed two groups from it (Metazoa
and Metaphyta), or also remove a third (Eumycota).
      As I stated before, I have no objection to mycologists recognizing a
fifth Kingdom Eumycota, but whether you realize it or not, calling it
Kingdom Fungi does create confusion, and it has ever since Whitaker proposed
raising it to kingdom status (and being the last of the five kingdoms
proposed, this alone indicates that it is the least qualified for kingdom
     From a historical perspective, I believe it was this recognition of a
fifth kingdom that also opened up a bit of a Pandora's Box to proposals for
many other kingdoms, and ultimately weakened the Four Kingdom classification
to the extent that it even made Woese's Three Urkingdoms (a.k.a. Domains)
look attract to some.
     But I have no problem with you recognizing a fifth Kingdom Eumycota if
you wish.  I am sure other mycologists will continue to recognize a fifth
kingdom, and I that is fine.  Interestingly, the head of the International
Mycological Institute in England ordered my book for his institution a few
years ago, and I have had no complaints from that quarter regarding my
preference for returning to a Four Kingdom classification (although their
preference would presumably also be for a fifth kingdom).
    In my 1994 book, I state that the "Kingdom Protista is defined by the
author as all eukaryotes excluding two holophyletic kingdoms (Metazoa and
Metaphyta).  Therefore Kingdom Protista is clearly paraphyletic (not
polyphyletic), and will remain paraphyletic even if a fifth kingdom
(Eumcota) is recognized.  And in my system the markers render Protista
semi-paraphyletic (thus informationally holophyletic, i.e. strictly
monophyletic).  This will be equally true if a fifth Kingdom Eumycota is
recognized, or even a sixth Kingdom Chromista (but the latter would have to
be emended from its original circumscription due to new information).
     But I believe anything beyond 5 kingdoms is going to seriously hamper
the stability and usefulness of Kingdom classifications, so I will state
again that the best choice is between a 4 or 5 kingdom classification, so I
hope you will not see me as stepping too heavily on the toes of the
mycologists.  I am not looking for a fight with mycologists, as I have
enough problems dealing with Woese and his Three Domains, which is a far
more serious matter.
                        ----------Ken Kinman

>From: Kipling Will <kww4 at CORNELL.EDU>
>Reply-To: Kipling Will <kww4 at CORNELL.EDU>
>Subject: Re: Fungi and Four Kingdoms
>Date: Sat, 2 Oct 1999 23:01:47 -0400
>Elizabeth Frieders wrote:
>....Snipped stuff here because I would rather eat various "fungi" than
>talk about them...
> > Recently someone posted that Linnaean ranks have served their purpose
> > 250+ years so why get rid of them. I think the recent discussions on
> > of kingdoms, and the position and rank of this or that group scream the
> > answer. BECAUSE they have been used for 250+ years, it is time to
> > their effectiveness in reflecting the phylogeny of life. There are VERY
> > concepts in biology that have rmained in use for this long without
> > The foundation of biology is that it does change as new evidence is
> > forward. The new evidence is here. Let's do something about it rather
> > clinging to ancient, creationist-based views of the classification of
> > on earth.
>         This is just more empty name calling just like the specious
>hyperbole and pejoration of terms presented by de Queiroz & Gauthier
>[1994. Toward a phylogenetic system of biological nomenclature. Tree 9,
>27-31 (and other similar articles)].
>         Just because a concept has been around does not mean it is somehow
>out, just because something is new does not make it better. The reason
>the current system has weathered and grown with our knowledge for more
>than 250 years has little to do with "clinging" or "creationist-based
>views". The recognition of a hierarchy in nature (the observation of a
>"Natural pattern of affinities" for pre evolutionist and Darwin for that
>matter) is the very reason an explanation was/is needed. Evolution is a
>superior explanation for the observed hierarchy. If the classification
>reflects, a closely as possible, the observations then it is predictive
>regarding the explanation.
>         Other, non hierarchical systems were proposed and they failed
>of repeated incongruent observations (despite serious attempts to divide
>the world into sets of five and etc.), not because they were disproved
>by evolutionary theory.
>         Can the system be improved? I am sure it can. How about some
>substantive attempts instead of hand waving? I don't agree with quite a
>few things in Ken Kinman's system (sorry Ken) but I commend him on
>making a real effort to solve problems. I am sure many of us would like
>to hear how you might fix the problems you perceive.
>Kipling Will
>2144 Comstock Hall
>Dept. of Entomology
>Cornell University
>Ithaca, NY 14853
>The grand fact of the natural subordination of organic beings in groups
>under groups, which, from its familiarity, does not always sufficiently
>strike us, is in my judgement thus explained.  -Darwin

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