nomenclatorial "bickering"

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Thu Sep 23 09:58:31 CDT 1999

Richard Brown wrote:

>For a couple of weeks I have both learned and become bored with the
>discussion concerning kingdoms, paraphyly, and men from mars.  But there's
>room (or trash can) for everything.


>However, its unfortunate the
>code doesn't regulate names above family level to promote stability and
>universality with ordinal names, e.g, Phasmatodea vs Phasmida, Blattaria vs
>Blattodea (and who's to deny Blattoptera), etc.

All of this is more than unfortunate for those of us trying to deal with
databasing of natural history museums. When one designs a hierarchical
database, one must follow a single hierarchy. If there are competing
hierarchies of (a) Orthoptera alone (b) Phasmida and Dictyoptera and
Orthoptera or (c) Phasmatodea, Blattodea, Mantodea, and Orthoptera, you
have to choose one and ONLY one for your database, unless you want to spend
months trying to accommodate all alternatives simultaneously. Worse still
when there are competing name variants, or varying definitions of the same
name (as in "Orthoptera" above). Lack of stability creates major
complications for the bookkeeping.
Before anyone offers them as a panacea, I'll note that recent proposals for
"rankless" classifications would gravely worsen the situation, in *many*
respects. Most notably, a proliferation of new names, largely due to the
fact that every new cladogram for the same taxa would result in the need
(should the author[s] feel compelled, that is) to create new names for
every altered clade, and also because (people being people) the simple idea
that one could now name every single node on a tree would lead some people
to do just that, whether it was useful or not. Gives me the willies.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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