Is Mantophasmatodea an order?

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Mon Apr 22 09:33:33 CDT 2002

> Some myriapodologists have been accepting of the new order, but at least
> centiped authority has argued strongly against it.  After some time, a
> concensus should emerge on whether or not the new order will become a
> permanent part of the system.

This, I think, comes closest to illustrating my own perspective on this
question.  Years ago, I was quite pleased with myself when I managed to
encapsulate my own concept of the definition of a "Species" in an
off-the-cuff response to a question about a presentation on hybridization
that I had just given:

"A Species is what a taxonomist [or community of taxonomists] says it is."

I later was both humbled and encouraged to learn that Darwin had come up
with essentially the same definition more than a century earlier:

"Hence, in determining whether a form should be ranked as a species or a
variety, the opinion of naturalists having sound judgment and wide
experience seems the only guide to follow. We must, however, in many cases,
decide by a majority of naturalists, for few well-marked and well-known
varieties can be named which have not been ranked as species by at least
some competent judges."
  - Origin of Species, Chapter 2

There is no reason (that I can discern) why the same definition doesn't
apply just as well to any taxonomic rank, from Kingdom (or "Domain") right
on down to any number of infraspecific nomenclatural ranks. Taxonomists have
used the Linnaean hierarchical system of nomenclature more or less
successfully for the past two and a half centuries, and I would submit that
this is the de-facto definition upon which the names in current use have
been based. So, while it might lack the objective purity that many
taxonomists would like to see their field of endeavor represent; I would
suggest that the definition has certainly been "pragmatic". I would also
suggest that efforts to achieve broad acceptance of more objective
definitions (including for the rank of "Species") have met with about as
much success as efforts to achieve broad acceptance of an entirely rankless
nomenclatural system have (despite the good intentions, and usually sound
logic, behind both sets of effort).

Bottom line: individual taxonomists propose names at whatever rank they deem
appropriate in the relevant context. The broader community of taxonomists
subsequently determine, through their own nomenclatural usage (and, one
would hope, based on a continually increasing body of relevant information),
which names make the most sense for effective communication amongst
themselves. Think of it as a form of "natural selection" (artificial, though
it may be).

I apologize (or provide assurances -- depending on the reader's perspective)
in advance that I probably won't have time to engage further in this


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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