Farewell to Species - reticulation

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Tue Feb 15 07:24:24 CST 2000

At 07:15 AM 2/15/00 -0500, you wrote:

>It is my understanding that phenetics never found widespread favor
>precisely because it was not a stable system, and that it failed to provide
>information in its most useful context. Although the true phylogeny is not
>something we can ever be certain to have discovered, it does stand as an
>objective goal which can act as a stabilizing factor to the various studies
>which attempt to approximate it. Using "overall similarity" as the criterion
>for a classification seems to be obviously less stable, since the criterion
>itself entails a subjective judgement.

The beauty of phenetics is that is has its greatest strength precisely at
the hierarchical levels where cladistics sometimes seems to fail us --
infraspecific taxa and closely related species.  When the question is:
"Here are a whole bunch of populations that are obviously very closely
related, no doubt they are monophyletic; how many discrete entities can be
recognized in this melange?"  -- that's when multivariate statistics are of
the most use.  When you want to know how best to classify the orders of
chordates, phenetics would be silly; go cladistic.  Each has value for
answering different questions.

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:                     lammers at uwosh.edu
phone (office):         920-424-7085
phone (herbarium):  920-424-1002
fax:                         920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.
"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

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