frieders at UWPLATT.EDU
Thu Oct 12 06:47:37 CDT 2000
In response to Doug Yanega's comments below:
>Oh, and a while back Philip Cantino wrote:
>>I don't understand what Doug means when he says that "in a rankless
>>scheme there really is no effective difference between a name and a
>If you have two taxon names, Abcus magna and Defus gloriosa, in a rankless
classification, you have >no way of knowing from the names alone whether
>those two species are related (they could even be sister species, and A.
>magna could be closer to D. gloriosa than to A. magnoides) or in different
>Kingdoms. The names may as well be numbers, since they convey no
>information about what they are related to, and similar names may not
>indicate close relationship. Long live the Genus! ;-)
My comment, Doug, is that the genus Lactarius is both a fish and a mushroom.
One would have no clue by looking at two species names whether they were
both fish, mushrooms, or one of each. So in some cases Linnaean names
convey no phylogenetic information either. One would have to include a
phylogenetic tree with the species to show their relationship or provide a
paragraph discussing it. To me, a cladogram is worth a thousand words.
Having spent several years working on obscure, morphologically unique, and
sometimes rather bizarre basidiomycetes, putting a Linnaean name on a taxon
doesn't convey any meaning. When ~60% of the genera are monotypic, plus a
good % of the families and orders, and there is little to no morphology to
use to understand relationships, sucking out DNA and getting a gene tree is
a welcome tool for determining phylogeny. [The previous option was
laborious TEM of subcellular structures which took a lot of money and time
and skill. Now I can have undergrads in the lab doing PCR and get a lot of
information in a short amount of time.]
Doug said "Richard, if you KNEW that 95% or so of the world's fish species
had yet to be discovered and described, would you be ready to switch to the
PhyloCode tomorrow, or would you consider it hopelessly premature?"
And Doug, I and other mycologists are sure that there are a huge number of
undescribed fungal species just waiting (in, on, and around the insects...).
Right now, I feel that it is a waste of my time to create ranks above the
genus level for new fungi being found. Because sure enough, after creating
a species, genus, family and order, and finding someone who can actually
write the descriptions in Latin for me, another related species will be
found that does not fit the morphological descriptions in the genus, family
and order, so they have to be emended.... Until more taxa are found to aid
us in understanding the relationships of these creatures, it is foolhardy of
us (all ~4 of us in the world that study these ~400 described species) to
think that we can slap ranks on what we have and think that we have done our
job correctly. So my response to your question is "Oh, praise be, yes, and
sign me up now." Recently a colleague sent me a new species to describe. The
first thing that I am going to do is DNA sequencing to see what it is
related to (if anything). Half of my work is done if I know that it is
relatively unique (own order) or just a strange species of a described
genus. If it is a new order, then simply naming it does not convey any
information on how it is related to other taxa in the class. But its
relative position on a tree would.
Of course we need to have names on taxa. But I really don't care what the
name is or if it is one word, or a binomial, polynomial, or a number. Names
are much easier to remember and potentially have morphological connotations,
so I would be in favor of a name rather than a number for a taxa. As far as
conveying relationships among taxa, a cladogram shows them more clearly than
would a list of taxa in a genus, family, order, etc. If one had 12 species
in a genus, and they were listed as members of that genus in text format,
the reader would not have any idea of the relationship of those 12 species
(we don't use subgenus, superspecies, etc. in my little world). But if
those 12 species were on a tree, you bet I could tell how they were related
(assuming there is resolution). And if there isn't resolution, then that is
good to know, and in that case there probably shouldn't be subgenera and
superspecies to begin with.
I guess I have rambled on long enough.
Dr. Elizabeth M. Frieders
Department of Biology
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
1 University Plaza
Platteville, WI 53818 USA
email: frieders at uwplatt.edu
There is something fascinating about science. One gets such
wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
-- Mark Twain
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