Blaming the victim (the Linnaean System)

Kipling Will kiplingw at NATURE.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Feb 6 15:30:09 CST 2003

As you say the non-expert knows he/she has an Insect and so can
immediately discount all other Classes of Animals that are in other
parts of the book or library. Not so with a rank-less system since
Insecta could mean any part of the hierarchy from populations to all
life. It makes no exclusive statement without a rank or without a
phylogeny at hand. Ranks are not so information rich as the cladogram,
but they are not empty of information content either.

Kip Will

"Frederick W. Schueler" wrote:
> Your non-expert doesn't go to the hierarchy of category names, he goes
> to the hierarchy of names.  I've never seen a library with a shelf
> labelled 'keys to genera.' Categories only figure at the lower end of
> titles of keys, "A key to the genera of x-iformes of y-bekistan"  - the
> higher end is always marked by the *name* of the group being identified.
> Say the non-expert has found something he thinks is an Insect - he
> doesn't look for "phyla, subphyla, or classes of things" (since we can't
> be sure from decade to decade which the Insecta may be) he looks for a
> key to the Insects, checks that his specimen fits the diagnosis of the
> group, and keys his way down to whatever level that key peters out for
> his particular specimen. Then he looks for a key to the, say,
> Staphylinidae of his particular region - and so on until he's identified
> the creature to the level he wants, or gives up in confusion.
Assistant Professor/Insect Systematist
ESPM--Division of Insect Biology
University of California
201 Wellman Hall
Berkeley, CA  94720-3112

Office (510)642-4296
Main office(510)642-3327
FAX (510)642-7428

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