Why I hate "Vespina" (a proposed clade)

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 28 03:38:31 CST 2002

      First let me just say that compared to Vespina, your more inclusive
clade Unicalcarida seems much more useful and less problematic, although I
would prefer an informal name like "unicalcareans" (which is Clade 4+ in my
Hymenoptera classification).  The clade "Vespina", however, is so
problematic that I hardly know where to begin:
      (1)  I'll start with a couple of minor reasons to dislike it.  First
of all, Vespina is the name of a genus in Lepidoptera---- being a widely
read taxonomist, I was not personally confused by that (many others would
not be so lucky, especially non-entomologists).
     (2)  It has the standard -ina ending for zoological suborders (see
Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology), but it cuts across the dividing line
between traditional hymenopteran suborders.  That it is so similar to
Vespinae just makes matters worse.  Perhaps it would have been better to
call it Apocrita sensu lato (not that I am recommmending that).
     (3) I could almost overlook the first two if only it were a
particularly useful clade to name.  And why create a formal clade Vespina,
rather than simply calling it "Apocrita + Orussidae" (two taxa which far
more people could find references to).  It's an unnecessary obfuscation of a
relatively simple idea---that Orussidae is sister group to all the more
derived hymenopterans (Apocrita).  I suppose Apocrita was itself created as
a short form of "non-symphytan hymenopterans", but at least it is far more
useful than formally appending a small sliver of Symphyta to the Apocrita.
     (4) NOW, imagine the embarrassment hymenopterists will feel (and
confusion to others) if Orussidae is not actually the sister group to
Apocrita (a very real possibility if the apomorphies are the result of
convergence or parallelism due to their parasitic way of life).   THEN, you
have to abandon yet another clade name, or expand it to include symphytan
families that are closer to Apocrita than Orussidae is.  More confusion in
the present and to users of the literature in the future.
     (5) Multiply this one instance of unnecessary clade-naming by hundreds
(eventually thousands) of times, and you can begin to imagine the kind of
chaos I see developing (as if taxonomy isn't already burdened with enough
bureaucratic problems).  The reputation of taxonomy will slide still
further, as cladists continue to formally name more and more clades, until
only trained specialists will understand classifications (like tax
specialists and lawyers).  And I don't want to even think about when
PhyloCode starts clashing with the other Codes.  Even scientists will have
increasing difficulty communicating with each other, and more time wasted on
unproductive activities.
     (6) As I said yesterday, it isn't isolated instances of clade-naming
that scare me, but the realization of what the cumulative effect will be of
this kind of activity over time (even if it doesn't escalate).  You can
ignore the problems early on, but they eventually catch up with you (or your
descendants) in an even worse form---a good example is the mistaken notion
that we could just scoff at Malthus and claim that population growth was a
problem science could somehow cope with (it only postpones the inevitable
until it is so bad it can no longer be ignored and solutions become very
painful and costly).
     Utopias are naive wishful thinking, whether you are talking about
societies, energy supplies, neverending "bull markets", or "PhyloCode in the
Sky".   PhyloCode and communism both look good on paper, but the reality
almost always turns out to be an entirely different thing.  If dinosaur
clade-naming is any indication (and mammals haven't fared much better), we
are going to be in for big trouble continuing on the present course.
            ----- Ken Kinman

>From: Susanne Schulmeister <susanne71_2000 at YAHOO.DE>
>Reply-To: Susanne Schulmeister <susanne71_2000 at YAHOO.DE>
>Subject: Vespina is a clade name
>Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2002 21:51:59 +0100
> >       Does anyone know if Vespina is a hymenopteran clade name?   The
> > only
> > Vespina I know of is a lepidopteran genus.  There is a hymenopteran
> > clade
> > Vespinae (subfamily within Vespidae), but surely that doesn't clade
> > with
> > Xiphydrioidea.
> >       Please tell me that Susanne made a couple of typos, and that
> > "Vespina"
> > isn't a large clade of hymenopterans.  Otherwise, I think I will need
> > to
> > take an aspirin and perhaps scream into a pillow.
>It was introduced by Rasnitsyn (1988) for Apocrita+Orussidae. You can
>also find it in that new "History of Insects" I mentioned, on page 244
>(right margin). It may not be the best name for this clade, but I felt
>that because that name is already out there in the literature, I can't
>just go about and make up a new one. What is it that you hate so much
>about that name?

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