Bacterial Systematics

B. J. Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Tue Mar 21 12:56:27 CST 2000

Dear Ken,
I think too much time has been invested in discussing the merits or flaws
of what Woese has written in the past - I certainly do not agree with
everything that he has written, but that is also part of progress. I also
do not agree with quite a bit of what Mayr writes about prokaryotes. His
view of prokroytes is not that far removed from Haeckel's tree of life
(i.e. Monera). He also seems to assume that diversity must be reflected
primarily in morphology.

>     As for the NCBI Taxonomy, I think most of their higher groupings are
>fairly natural, and I have not seen them prematurely introducing taxon names
>at family level or above.  And their taxonomic coverage far surpasses that
>of any bacterial "nomenclatural" sites I've seen.  I still don't see why you
>have such a problem with the NCBI approach, which is gradually changing to
keep up with new ideas and data.

Look closely and you will see the "beta-subdivision of the Proteobacteria".
Proteobacteria is a class, not a division! In the same section you can find
the order Burholderiales (name is not validly published), also subdivided
into the family Burholderiaceae (also not validly published). Look at the
"Pseudomonas group" and you will find a wide range of genera included, but
not members of the family Azotobacteraceae (which certainly fit in the
"Pseudomonas group"). These are just three examples which cause problems if
you are not familiar with the present developments in prokaryotic taxonomy.

>      I suspect the Bergey Manual classification will be many years out of
>date before it is print, and any future editions will presumably be
>electronic and continuously updated (which would be a big improvement).

Just reflects the dynamic state of the art at present.

>      As for Woese's approach, it is a strange combination of phenetics and
>cladistics, and in clinging to his old ideas on three urkingdoms (a.k.a.
>three domains) and thermophilic origins, I fear he has made a mess from
>which he cannot extricate himself (except to cover it up by blaming it on
>massive horizontal transfers---which had probably quieted down long before
>the Metabacteria even evolved).
>                               -------Ken Kinman will all come out in the wash!
Best wishes

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