[Taxacom] PhyloCode & ICZN to "duke it out"?

Ken Kinman 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.
Hi Richard,
     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 
like this):

   4  Thalassoma%
  _a_ Gomphosus

      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.
    -----Ken Kinman

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