Paraphyly=mistakes? (There's the rub)

David Orlovich David.Orlovich at BOTANY.OTAGO.AC.NZ
Wed Jan 9 12:20:17 CST 2002

on 9/1/02 11:13 AM, Ken Kinman at kinman at HOTMAIL.COM wrote:

> David,
> The phrase "koala bear" is a common name, and we are discussing formal
> (Latin) nomenclature.  However, if someone tries to classify the koala bear
> in the genus _Ursus_ or Order Carnivora, then I assure you that I would be
> the first to vociferously object.

Dear Ken et al.

Yes I agree that my argument was off target because "koala [bear]" is a
common name and we're discussing a formal classification.  However I still
feel that the spirit of the argument is the same - that the use of such
names, just like the use of names for paraphyletic groups, carries with it
inherent misinformation.  Having said that, I would concede that I too refer
to 'small-g gymnosperms' and 'small-b bryophytes' in my first year classes
(having explained paraphyly to them) but I do so with great caution and
considerable apprehension as I don't want to undermine my own evolutionary
biology teaching at third-year when I expect that most of the students will
have forgotten all that stuff I said about paraphyly and small letters and
only remember that there are gymnosperms and bryophytes (if I'm lucky!) - so
I try to make an effort to not use those names at all if I can, except as a
historical note to help them when reading older literature.

Cheers, David.

Dr David Orlovich,
Ecology, Conservation and Biodiversity Research Group,
Department of Botany,
The University of Otago
PO Box 56,
Dunedin, New Zealand.

Telephone: (03) 479 9060 (international +643 479 9060)
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