"gymnosperms" small g
kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 11 21:19:45 CST 2002
That's kind of sad that you should have to feel considerable
apprehension when using such useful terms as "bryophytes" and "gymnosperms".
Instead of gymnosperms (a perfectly good term which literally conveys the
"naked seed" characteristic), we might have to resort to "non-angiosperm
And the Arizona Tree of Life has already given Tetrapoda "the boot" in
favor of Stegocephalia. Thus what we usually call amphibians become
"non-amniote stegocephalians". The vertebrate paleontologist Peter Dodson
refers to the phrase "non-avian dinosaur" as tortured English, but as a
member of the dinosaur list (DML), I have personally grown accustomed to
that one tolerably well (sort of).
Oh what a tangled web we weave, in our efforts to be precise. We are
already paying a very heavy price, and it's only going to get worse. To me
strict cladism is like prescribing chemotherapy to cure warts: the cure is
worse than the disease, and a cure that shall actually cause more problems
(which will then require more cures ad nauseum, sort of like our bloated
legal system). It is very worrisome, and given the concerns over phylocode
(expressed both inside and outside the cladistics community), I'm wondering
why Cantino's response to Michael Benton's 2000 paper has not appeared yet
(or has it?).
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.
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