[Taxacom] PhyloCode & ICZN to "duke it out"?
kinman at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 5 09:49:32 CDT 2007
>From: "Richard Pyle" Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2007
>2) Another common criticism of Phylocode is that it will lead to a
>proliferation of names because every node could presumably be named. But
>practice, this won't happen because: a) not every node will be named --
>those for which a name assists in communicating ideas about inferred
>phylogenetic rlationships; and b) many names, though perhaps technically
>"valid" in the Phylocode context, will not be used because they have little
>or no communicative value.
I am not nearly as optimistic about this or other problems that have
been discussed. I regularly read debates among PhyloCoders themselves, and
they have already proposed a dizzying array of clade names for just the
dinosaurs, some of which are synonymous as different authors rush to gain
priority for their own taxon names. It isn't pretty even among PhyloCoders,
and it would (will?) be even uglier once they start attacking us instead of
each other. I've even heard a number of proponents of strict cladism say
they look forward to the day when the proponents of paraphyly have "died
off". I guess they don't realize how many of us there really are.
And I think the term "monophilia" is far too kind (after all I love
clades too). I still think the term "paraphylophobia" more accurately
captures the main shortcomings of strict cladism and the great harm it will
do to nomenclature and our ability to communicate (not just with each other,
but with people outside of professional biology).
To take just one minor problem you brought up. Since genus Gomphosus
is pretty clearly cladistically embedded within genus Thalassoma, strict
cladists WILL insist on "correcting" this paraphyly "problem". But it's not
as simple as changing to Thalassoma varium, because Gomphosus has priority,
so ALL the Thalassoma species would actually be dumped into Gomphosus (and
many of the specific endings will change as well).
Wouldn't it be simpler if PhyloCode just allowed paraphyly the way they
allow use of ranks. But that isn't going to happen, because their idea of
communication is extremely strictly formulated and legalistic (far more than
ours). Anyway, I will simply keep Gomphosus and Thalassoma as separate
genera, but will mark Thalassoma as a paraphyletic mother group (something
There is also the question of Halichoeres maculipinna, which doesn't
belong to Halichoeres at all. I would simply place it as the basalmost
species of Thalassoma, but I suspect PhyloCoders will insist on creating a
new genus for it. Take my approach and you only shift one species
(maculipinna) to Thalassoma, while strict cladists will definitely LUMP all
Thalassoma species into Gomphosus (unless they suppress the latter name),
and probably SPLIT maculipinna off as a new genus. Lots of name changes
that I believe to be unnecessary and avoidable.
Multiply such unnecessary lumping and splitting a thousand times (just
among genera) and it will cause much confusion and anger beyond our
profession. All because strict cladists (and PhyloCoders in particular)
want to split hairs and create a nomenclatural legal society with ultimately
millions of strictly defined names (including ours, which are admitted
loosely defined, but that sure beats a straight-jacket).
And it doesn't stop at generic names. Will clade Aves be restricted to
crown group birds (thus a senior synonym of perfectly good name Neornithes)?
Probably!!! Likewise Amphibia, Reptilia, Tetrapoda, and many others will
be redefined as crown clades that are a far cry from their normal content
(especially if you include fossil taxa). Zoologists face a huge mess at
EVERY taxonomic level as this spreads from its epicenter (in herpetology).
Most botanists on the other hand will likely watch it all play out from a
safe distance and learn a valuable lesson from our turmoil. I once hoped
strict cladism (and the even stricter PhyloCode) could be kept in their own
sandbox, but no more. Too many of them are already taking sand from our box
AND adding insult to injury by throwing it back into our faces.
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