Google for Internet Database / unique classification?

J. Kirk Fitzhugh kfitzhug at NHM.ORG
Wed Mar 22 11:51:50 CST 2006

At 11:30 AM 3/22/2006 -0800, Doug Yanega wrote:
>Like it or not, a classification is more than just a way to declare a
>hypothesis about which branch is related to which in the Tree of
>Life; it is a tool for the organization of information ABOUT life,
>and we can only retrieve information correctly if everyone is using
>the same tool the same way.
>I am not saying that a consensus classification would necessarily
>have to be static, nor even necessarily *stable* - science does,
>after all, march on - but it DOES need to be standardized (so anyone
>using, say, the name "Nymphalidae" in 2007 will be talking about the
>same thing as anyone else using the name "Nymphalidae" in 2007).

If a 'classification' conveys hypotheses of relationship, then one's
observations are already subsumed under those hypotheses, so 'information'
is automatically conveyed.  Unless of course you want to subscribe to the
PhyloCode mantra of stem-, node-, or apomorphy-based definitions, in which
case conveying hypotheses and characters are compromised.

Standardization might best be attained when we all agree that a
nomenclatural system should use names to represent phylogenetic (i.e.,
supraspecific) and tokogenetic (i.e., species) hypotheses as accurately as
possible.  One problem, however, is that once a hypothesis is replaced by a
new hypothesis, applying the name for the former to the latter fails to
maintain such standardization.


J. Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D.
Curator of Polychaetes
Invertebrate Zoology Section
Research & Collections Branch
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
900 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90007

Phone:   213-763-3233
FAX:       213-746-2999
e-mail:  kfitzhug at

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