systematics V taxonomy

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 6 14:52:02 CDT 2002

Dear All,
      I think the Lammers-Stuessy definitions sum it up pretty well.  The
main reason confusion has developed is that phylogenetics is trying to pack
too much systematics into our formal taxonomies (classifications).  We are
drowning in a flood of clade taxa (many of which aren't turning out to be
real clades anyway).  In that sense, strict phylogenetics ends up being
"unnatural".  Perhaps it is a reflection of American mass production and
massive junkyards.  Amidst all that taxonomic litter there must be some good
stuff.  If not, just mass produce some more.
      As Ernst Mayr has pointed out, phylogenetics is not creating
classifications, but rather "cladifications" (and these can be notoriously
unstable, especially in zoology).  And in the absence of a Linnaean
structure to appropriately constrain them (with a few checks and balances),
such "cladifications" will often become monstrosities that will slowly bog
down taxonomy and systematics in increasing confusion and bureaucratic
bickering.  The botanists seem to be doing a better of job of minimizing
such problems so far.
     In my view, systematics and taxonomy CAN interlock without blurring the
distinction and becoming synonymous.  We have three choices: (1) boldly
plunge ahead with the present direction phylogenetics is taking (perhaps
destroying Linnaean nomenclature in the process); (2) just resist and
criticize the strictly phylogenetic approach and tinker with the traditional
approach; or (3) reevaluate where all this is headed, and forge new
conventions that will combine the best parts of both old and new approaches.
      I prefer the third approach, as the first two approaches will just
have two opposed camps in a continuing battle with one another for yet
another couple of decades.   Once again, for those who haven't yet done so,
I would very highly recommend reading Kent Carpenter's 1993 paper (Syst.
Biol., 42:142-154).
        ------ Sincerely,
                     Ken Kinman
Thomas Lammers wrote:
>To me, taxonomy is the narrower field, dealing with the creation of
>classification & nomenclature, and their application (e.g.,
>identification).  Systematics includes the coordinate disciplines of
>phylogenetics (study of evolutionary patterns) and evolutionary biology
>(study of evolutionary processes).  All are interlocking and affect one
>another, and for that reason are largely if not completely synonymous.
>This view is derived largely from the  intro chapters of Tod Stuessy's 1990
>Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.
>Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
>Department of Biology and Microbiology
>University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
>Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

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