Useful classification and barcoding (was "Muscomorpha")

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Mar 23 21:54:01 CST 2004

Dan Janzen wrote:
Ken, while it is much fun to be set up as the arch-anything, perhaps I should calm the waters a wee bit by emphasizing that I am not anti-cladists.  I am pro-the-usefulness-of-taxonomy-to-everyone....  I also want to be able to know how to identify all the world's whales with any tissue, anywhere, anytime, in one minute, very cheap.  And to be able to talk about the result to ANYONE (and listen to the reply from anyone), and be able to archive that information, and have it be intelligible to ANYONE 100 years from now.
Thanks Dan,
     That is music to my ears.  Usefulness to a wide group of users has always been my goal too, and eliminating paraphyly can obviously greatly compromise the usefulness of classifications beyond the community of strict cladists who think holophyly-only is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Encoding cladistic relationships (as I favor) has the advantage that a single stable classification can be variously coded to show many different cladistic relationships.  Only those interested in the details of these relationships need to understand the subtleties of different codings, and everyone else can just ignore the coding and reap the benefit of a relatively stable classification (even if new evidence requires future recoding).

     Anyway, assuming that Hebert's use of barcoding (to aid in field identification and the more efficient discovery of possible new species) will eventually become a reality, I just hope someone like you is in charge of setting up the higher classification that is used.  A strict cladist might be inclined to include unnecessary (even esoteric) intermediate categories, not to mention a refusal to use useful paraphyletic taxa.  For instance, inserting Dinosauria when classifying a bird (even though it would be somewhat like inserting Crustacea as a higher taxon when classifying insects).  Or to use your example, inserting Whippomorpha or Cetartiodactyla in classifying a whale. Another strictly cladistic intermediate that would often either confuse or amuse would be the classification of tetrapods as Sarcopterygians.  Elimination of paraphyly requires the fleshy-finned fishes to be termed "non-tetrapod sarcopterygians" (which is another example I am sure Peter Dodson probably finds both frustrating and laughable).
            ------ Cheers,   Ken Kinman
P.S.  If NCBI wants to continue using Muscomorpha instead of the more widely used Cyclorrhapa, I guess that is their business.  That it is also unambiguous would add even more weight to the advantages of using Cyclorrhapa, but it's obviously not in my power to change it.  All I can do is point this out and hope for the best.

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