"gymnosperms" small g

Les Kaufman lesk at BU.EDU
Sat Jan 12 10:39:08 CST 2002

A quarter of a century ago (ug!) when I was in graduate school, good
'ole Bob Bakker (  !) taught us,
with grace and ease, about clades and grades.  Former clades seamlessly
slipped into hallowed grade-dom as new
phylogenetic insights were revealed, then overturned again and again in
healthy debate.  This didn't stop anybody from talking
about dinosaurs OR birds, lungfish OR tetrapods, parrotfishes OR wrasses
(my own trivial transgression five years later).
Why is it suddenly a problem now?

Ken Kinman wrote:
> David,
>       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
> spermatophytes".
>       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?).
>                -------- Ken
> *****************************************
> David wrote:
>      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.
> >
> _________________________________________________________________
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Les Kaufman
Biology Department
Boston University
5 Cummington St.
Boston, MA 02215
lesk at bu.edu
617-353-5560 office
617-353-6965 lab
617-353-6340 fax


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