Paraphyly and names

Barry Roth barry_roth at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 18 15:21:44 CST 2002

Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG> wrote:
>> If, e.g., we have a pectinate cladogram of species A,B,C,D,E and clades
>> A+B and A+B+C+D are supported by many synapomorphies, we will gain the
>> most informative taxa by grouping ((A+B)+(C+D))+E.
>> ***********
>> That depends on what kind of information you wish to represent.
>> If you wish
>> to deliver information about the history of the taxa, then no, your
>> formulation is not more informative. If you wish to make some general
>> subjective comment about the extent to which different groupings
>> of species
>> might resemble each other, then sure, your arrangement might work.
>BINGO!!!! You've just beautifully stated the point I have been trying to
>make all along!

Then I guess it still needs to be asked:  what is the point of doing the latter, except for trivial reasons (e.g., all soft-bodied taxa need to be stored in alcohol rather than on pins or in trays, etc.)?  I'm not sure why I would make a taxonomy unless I expected to get more out of it than I put into it.  It should have a predictive basis.  And because of the fact of organic evolution, the taxonomy that stands the best chance of making accurate predictions about the distribution of not-yet-analyzed or -discovered characters is the one most grounded in phylogeny.

Barry Roth

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