Should we ditch infageneric ranks?

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Wed Sep 28 08:13:33 CDT 2005

Guido Mathieu wrote:

> A name is an 'identifier'. But an ID is obviously not the same to everyone,
> which causes different name concepts.

Taxonomic names are more than identifiers - taxonomic names provide information
about the named entity, based on the rank and the known characteristics of other
entities at that rank and "contained" within that rank.  Knowing a tree belongs to
Fagaceae allows a number of statements about that tree.  Knowing it belongs to
Quercus allows a greater number of more specific statements , and knowing that it is
Quercus rubra allows even greater specificity.

> When a name is a strict 'pin-pointer' it doesn't has to reflect any feature of
> what is named. Such a name is useful but not informative.

Even "pin pointers" are useful because they provide information.

Taxonomic names do not have an existence independent of the entities they denote.

> When a name says also something about what is named, the name is less useful the
> more information it contains.

I disagree; it is more useful because it allows the greatest number of
generalizations about what is named.

> One of the consequences is that such a name has to
> be changed every time the information changes.

We have learned a lot about Quercus rubra in the time since it was named by Linnaeus
(morphology, physiology, genetics, biogeography, anatomy, development, phylogeny,
etc.) - but the name has not changed!

> The more information it contains,
> the more frequent it has to be changed...

Not so.  This may be true early in the life history of a name, but if the name
survives various tests, it becomes more stable.


Dick J.
Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

More information about the Taxacom mailing list