Should we ditch infageneric ranks?

Steve Manning sdmanning at ASUB.EDU
Thu Sep 29 18:39:40 CDT 2005

At 02:08 AM 9/27/2005 +0100, Kevin Thiele wrote:
>A colleague and I are preparing a paper to merge two Australian proteaceous
>genera (Dryandra, 93 spp and Banksia, 80 spp). Morphological and molecular
>results provide strong evidence that the latter is paraphyletic with respect
>to the former.
>Both genera have a rich infrageneric taxonomy (subgenera, sections, series,
>subseries), mostly produced in the last 25 years.
>We are considering two options:
>1. Maintain and update the infrageneric taxonomy. To do this, we would need
>to do stat. novs for over half the subgeneric taxa (e.g. from series to
>section, from subgenus to section, from section to series). The result would
>be an equally rich infrageneric classification, but with many rank changes.
>2. Simply ditch the infrageneric classification, and instead create informal
>species groups and refer people to the cladograms for a full understanding
>of relationships within the new genus. The thinking here is that infraranks
>in the past were introduced mainly to capture previous workers' hypotheses
>of relationships - which are better represented in the new cladograms than
>in formally ranked taxa anyway. So why maintain the infrageneric

Excellent question!  Although I originally responded by simply voting for
number 2, I would, after reading some other responses, like to amend this
by saying I would still vote for number 2 if the three choices mentioned in
this thread were the only ones, but I would suggest a modification to
number 2: delete the words "create informal species groups and".  In other
words, don't do any supraspecific/subgeneric groups at all, informal or
otherwise, and just let those interested get the relationships info. from
the cladograms.


>Both these courses of action have advantages and disadvantages. The choice
>is basically about the role of richly ranked classifications (particularly
>infraranks) in the age of cladistics. Option 2 perhaps represents a
>compromise between conventional texonomy and the phylocodists - maintain the
>core Linnaean ranks (genus, family etc) for their utility but ditch
>infraranks where possible.
>We are keen to poll TAXACOM members as to their opinions on these two
>alternative courses of action - what do you think we should do?
>Cheers - Kevin Thiele

Dr. Steve Manning
Arkansas State University--Beebe
Mathematics and Science
Professor of Biology
P.O. Box 1000
Beebe, AR  72012
Phone: 501-882-8203
Fax: 501-882-4437

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