Farewell to Species and Nomenclatural Stability

Stuart G. Poss Stuart.Poss at USM.EDU
Fri Feb 4 12:54:28 CST 2000

>Thomas DiBenedetto wrote:

>I am not sure what the system of ranks applied to taxa tells us about

Personally, I'm not sure what rankless uninomials can tell us about
evolution that binomials can not, particularly if we can always create
one, or at least a new meaning for each one, each time we conceive of a
new evolutionary hypothesis (existence of a linneage or potential
"species/variant/variant with a perceived apomorphy"), whether it is
"true/real" or not.  Nor am I sure I understand what nomenclatural
benefits we gain by using a uninomial without an embedded blank, that is
not gained by using a "uninomial" with an embedded blank between two
parts of the name, with that part of the uninomial preceeding the blank
implying a natural group of "species group names" following the blank.

If the concept of holophyly is so difficult to employ in recognition of
nomenclaturally stable natural groups at the level of genus group names
that advocates of this approach want to be spared from having to be held
accountable for upholding nomenclatural stability with respect to any
particular choice, why should we be so eager to use it to create names
for a phenomenal number of possible permutations to describe a mostly
"false" number edges on even more complex trees (ignoring the reality of
reticulation) at higher "ranks" (classes of uninomials)?  Rather than
further destablize a common nomenclatural system that together with the
concept of taxonomic rank has worked remarkably well for several hundred
response to Tom's question), despite its shortcommings, it might be a
lot more prudent to admit that at times recognition of names based on
paraphyletic groups, especially if demonstrably convex, would better
serve nomenclatural stability.

Those finding such a thought completely abhorent to the insatiable need
for pure ideology, might consider settling for use of a nomenclatural
convention to draw the distinction to such names when they do not
reflect holophyly rather than insisting on tipping over the whole apple
cart.  At least using paraphyletic taxa (possibly simply denoted, with
an "*" to imply non-holophyly or holophyly uncertain),  would be easier
than creating innumerable new letters of the alphabet or grappling with
the excessively long or  nested uninomials that will necessarily be
required to name all possible permutations for linneages putative and
real.  I suspect that this approach would also be certainly more
workable than erecting a third nomenclatural universe in parallel to the
common and the Linnean (or possibly a fourth for those who long ago
adopted the idea of simply giving taxa a unique number, a proposal that
never seemed to have universally caught on), not to mention the extra
work we will all have to go through to map these names to one another.

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