NOT-inflated Family Staphylinidae

Michael A. Ivie mivie at MONTANA.EDU
Thu Feb 10 16:23:53 CST 2005

Dear Ken,

Clearly you do not understand the situation in the Coleoptera and/or the value
of monophyly.  Thayer and Sikes are being very polite, because they are
involved in the solution now ongoing, but the fact is that the old
"staphylinidae" did not make sense to anyone who knew the beetles.  It was only
a comfort to the typological duffer taxonomist, not the scientist looking for
evolutionary patterns.  I used it for decades, and was comfortable with it, but
it never made any sense.  It was a wastebasket of leftovers with the
monster-apomorphy groups pulled out.  By putting the pselaphines, scaphidiines,
brathiniines, dascyderines and micropeplines back in, where they belong, we now
have a coherent Staphylinidae for the first time.  The current Staphylinidae
MAKES SENSE as an evolutionary unit to someone who knows the beetles, the old
one never did.

Adding these 5 "former" families only increased the size of the Staphylinidae
by about 20% (using North American numbers), and adding the next 2 would change
it by only about 5% more.  Hardly the huge bloat problem you think it is.

Before we can even think about a new family structure probably both the
silphids in the modern sense (without things that are now in the Agyrtidae and
Leiodidae) and scydmaenids will need to fall into the staphs.  Then, with a
more complete and stable cladogram, the mega-family Staphylinidae might be able
to be broken up, but that is a long time off.  And, it should only be done if
it is more useful than a single, monophyletic Staphylinidae.

The fact that the group is huge is no diffrent from other beetle families
(Curculionidae is as large, and still useful). Lets face it, everything about
Kingdom Coleoptera is bigger and better than in other groups.

What is really disturbing about your argument is he fact that you quote people who think the birds should be given equal rank
with the reptiles, and obviously cut the quite clear Darwin quote to fit your
views.  This puts you more in the camp of those that created the classification mess we are still
trying to deal with, rather than with those that are bringing sense to the
modern beetle classification.  Those old ideas and their advocates are dead -- move into
the modern world and embrace true monophyly, you will enjoy it.  To quote someone I
went to gradschool with "Balance is an argument of the unbalanced."

Michael Ivie

Ken Kinman wrote:

> Margaret wrote:
> Ken,
> You seem to have missed the fact that Pselaphinae (=former Pselaphidae) is merely a PART of the Omaliine group, not the whole thing by a long shot.  This is quite clearly shown on the Staphylinidae TOL page
> **********************************************************
> Dear Margaret,
>       Oh no, I didn't miss that at all.  I tried to make that clear by saying "Pselaphidae (= Omaliinae group)".  Once the omaliines and others were found to be allied with Pselaphines, it would have been best to unite them in an expanded Family Pselaphidae (therefore containing a total of 10 subfamilies).  Your tree clearly shows such a Family Pselaphidae to be sister group to a less-"bloated" (to use Derek's term) Family Staphylinidae.  The tree is fine, but I really dislike the phrase "Omaliinae group" even more than I dislike it being shoved into Staphylinidae.  None of those subfamilies were ever "true staphylinids", and once the error was discovered, I would have transferred them to Pselaphidae.  I really see little advantage in putting it off until the future.
>      Of course, the question remains whether Family Silphidae is sister group to a Pselaphidae-Staphylinidae clade, or if it is actually closer to one of these two families than they are to each other.  Whatever the exact cladistic topology turns out to be, I would treat them as three separate families, not dump yet another family into one that is already too inflated (I haven't looked at Scydmaenidae, so not sure what I would do with it).  Anyway, this is what Mayr and Ashlock would refer to as aiming for "balance" in classification.  Not that classifications can be (or should be) made to be perfectly balanced, BUT we should avoid making them more unbalanced whenever we can do so.  I think 8 families of Staphylinoidea is a good number, but the way things are going you might end up with only two or three (one being an even more bloated monster), and that would be even more unbalanced (not to mention an increased chance that you will inadvertently created a monster that is
> paraphyletic as well as bloated).
>      ----- Cheers,
>                  Ken Kinman
> P.S.  As for different interpretations of Darwin's quote, I suspect it might lie in how different people interpret the phrase "same degree in blood".  I'll have to think about that some more.


Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

(406) 994-4610 (voice)
(406) 994-6029 (FAX)
mivie at

More information about the Taxacom mailing list