Farewell to Species - reticulation

Thomas DiBenedetto TDibenedetto at DCCMC.ORG
Mon Feb 14 10:35:41 CST 2000

Thomas Schlemmermeyer wrote:
According to my knowledge, traditional nomenclature in fact assumes that
taxon is any group of organisms, from species up to more inclusive ones.
That this is so and not different, can be explained by the history of
taxonomy. Phylogenetic concepts are relatively new and did not accompany all
taxonomic efforts. Nor should the whole of taxonomy be seen
If, by traditional, you mean pre-evolutionary, then I agree. Phylogenetic
concerns in the field of taxonomy are still relatively new. For me though,
that does not mean in any way that a non-phylogentic, a non-evolutionary
taxonomy should be considered acceptable anymore. How much longer will it be
until the evolutionary perspective is fully integrated into the conceptual
architecture of biological thought?
The first goal [of taxonomy] mentioned (storage and retrieval of
information) can be obtained already without available phylogeny. Or should
one start to name species only when the complete phylogeny is known?
Certainly, this would be nonsense.
It can be obtained only if you conceive of "it" (the relevant information
about a species) as something apart from its historical identity. I think
the phylogeny of a taxon is the central organizing fact for all of the rest
of the information about the taxon. I think your last comment is a bit of a
strawman. No phylogenetic taxonomist has ever felt restrained from naming
species until the phylogeny is known. Naming a species entails simply
recognizing it as distinct from all other species, and hypothesizing a
higher level grouping ( a genus) of which it is a part. That hypothesis
might change,,,so what?
Thus, it is only logical that taxonomy itself cannot and should not be based
on ancestor-descendant relationships already in the first take, rather
ancestor-descendants relationships may be products that come out of good
I dont see systematics or taxonomy having much of anything to do with
ancestor-descendant relationships. "Alpha" taxonomy is about identifying
distinct, previously unrecognized terminal taxa (new species), or
revistiting previous proposals of that type. Systematics is about
discovering the sister-group relationships of taxa. Ancestor-descendant
relationships seem to me to be outside of the purview of empirical science.
But to your more general point that taxonomy should not be based on
systematics, but rather vice versa, I disagree. How could one discover
anything about phylogeny through the use of non-phylogenetic taxonomy?

Tom DiBenedetto
tdib at dccmc.org

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