Prokaryota & Eukaryota; Lumpers & Splitters

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 15 08:06:31 CDT 2000

     I would agree with Brian that the first distinction of prokaryotic and
eukaryotic organisms, using those particular terms, is apparently traced to
Chatton, 1938.  But I don't attach author and date to names of higher taxa
(we have enough time-consuming nomenclatorial wrangling about that for lower
taxa), so I can't say for sure.  The first use of the name Prokaryota as a
formal taxon name apparently dates from Dougherty, 1957 (sorry, I don't have
the citation).
     But the concept of a primitive group of organisms without nuclei seems
to have originated with Haeckel in the 19th Century under the name Monera
(which is basically synonymous with Prokaryota).  Therefore I recognize one
Kingdom Monera, which was pretty much universally used before Woese started
to muddy the picture in 1977.   I classify Phylum Metabacteria (= Archaea;
Archaebacteria; Archaeobacteria---all three misnomers) within Kingdom
     Although there are some who believe Metabacteria (Archaebacteria) is
not a natural group, I have to agree with Woese that it is a natural group
(although paraphyletic).  However, misnaming it and raising it to Domain
status is causing a great many problems in Microbiology, but I will not
start ranting about that again.
     The point is that prokaryotes will ALWAYS be paraphyletic with respect
to eukaryotes, no matter how far you subdivide them, so why subdivide
Kingdom Monera when it serves no purpose but confusion (I am a admittedly a
"lumper" and I find unnecessary "splitting" extremely irritating).
     There is absolutely nothing wrong with either a 4-Kingdom (Copeland,
1956; Cain, 1974; Kinman, 1994) or 5-Kingdom (Whittaker and Margulis, 1959
etc.) classification of life.  However, if one does recognize a fifth
kingdom of life (fourth kingdom of eukaryotes) it should definitely be
called Kingdom Eumycota.  The term fungi (based on a saprophytic nutritive
mode) is an unnatural polyphyletic group, and should not be used as a taxon
    This too continues to cause confusion, but nothing  compared to the
confusion the Woesian approach is causing in bacteriology.  The current
taxonomic inflation (extreme splitting) which is now apparent in
microbiology (apparently even the new Bergey's Manual, which is
traditionally conservative) will eventually be followed by a lumper's swing
back to a more intelligible and heuristic classification of bacteria.  In
the meantime, I pity anyone (students, doctors, clinicians, and biologists
in general) who has to try to wade through the mess during the coming
decade.  The sad thing is that this kind of mess is totally preventable and
senseless.  So it goes.
              ----Have a good weekend, Ken Kinman

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