Is Mantophasmatodea an order?

Riaan Stals VREHRS at PLANT5.AGRIC.ZA
Mon Apr 22 17:05:16 CDT 2002


Dear well-informed colleagues, South and North,

A new insect order (Mantophasmatodea) has been described in last Friday's issue of
*Science* (18.iv.2002): http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.shtml
This is of course reason for great excitement, since this has not happened since
1914. And we Africans are especially excited that the extant Mantophasma species
(and another genus not yet described: http://www.mpg.de/pri02/pri0229.htm ) are
Afrotropical.

All of which quickly led me to a question I realised I do not know the answer of:
WHAT IS AN ORDER?

Phylocode aside, the rank of order is so entrenched in biosystematics that I cannot
imagine doing without it. But what characteristics should a monophylum have to be
designated as an order? Also, is an insect order the taxonomic 'equivalent' of, say, a
mammal order?

The authors of Mantophasmatodea "accept the logical merits of [the] stand" that
"naming of higher taxa, which only contain a single genus, is 'empty formalism' ". Yet
they "[p]ragmatically ... believe" that all genera should be assigned to families and
orders. I might "pragmatically" agree (rankless nomenclature not considered now),
but what makes an order?

For that matter, what makes a family, etcetera?

The authors of Mantophasmatodea present little cladistic evidence (no analysis) to
support the rank and placement of the group. They also acknowledge that any
sistergroup relationship of the new order is "ambiguous". [A more detailed study is
apparently underway and to be published in the southern Spring this year.]


RIAAN STALS


-------------
RIAAN STALS
VREHRS at PLANT5.AGRIC.ZA

South African National Collection of Insects
ARC - Plant  Protection  Research  Institute
Private Bag X134  Pretoria 0001 South Africa
Voice +27-12-323-8540    Fax +27-12-325-6998




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