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Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU Don.Colless at CSIRO.AU
Thu Feb 6 13:57:57 CST 2003


Frederick Schueler wrote;

**** I've been grumped at before for saying this - but the Aristotelian,
non-Darwinian, baggage that goes with Linnaean nomenclature is the higher
categories. Leave them off a classification and what have you lost? Anybody
who recognizes the names will have a feeling for what the taxa are, and for
others they're just steps in the hierarchy, even if not decorated with
"Subtribe" or "Superfamily." If we're going to have appendices attached to
the names of taxa, it seems that there are three

options: overall phenetic difference from the sister group, overall
genetetic difference from the sister group, and date of origin. And each of
those is a falsifiable datum that would tell you a lot about what the author
believes to be true about the taxon. An agonizing decision about

sub- or family status, on the other hand, is relatively
information-poor.****

Of course there are those three options, and a number of others - e.g., the
"size" of the projected higher taxon (number of included species and
subtaxa), and potential "interest" - the tribe Anophelini (in mosquitoes) is
of great interest as it includes all the important vectors of malaria. IMHO,
higher taxa are really practical devices, to assist in the convenient
pigeonholing of an unwieldy plethora of species. They can, of course, be
used to convey phylogenetic information as well. But there is - and can
never be - a single option for choosing, say, the family level. The names of
higher taxa have "open texture"; their delineation is to a large extent
polythetic.




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