[Taxacom] Felsenstein lecture

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Dec 3 17:51:55 CST 2008

I've just gone through the very nice downloadable slide presentation
(many thanks to Felsenstein and the SA for making this available) and
find that Felsenstein is still questioning the connections between
taxonomy, phylogeny and 'biological usefulness'.

He did this in his 2004 book 'Inferring Phylogenies' and again here. His
position (I can't call it an argument) has an element in common with
what Richard Zander has been saying: classifications need not reflect
all the messy details of lineage history. (Big oversimplification there,
of course.)

The core of Felsenstein's lecture deals with how to treat morphological
character states in a probabilistic framework. Nice idea, but it skirts
the issue that Zander focuses on, namely that morphological character
states are bright little ornaments on much larger Christmas-tree
entities which evolve as units.

A nice paper which explores this idea explicitly is

Geeta, R. 2003. Structure trees and species trees: what they say about
morphological development and evolution. Evolution and Development 5(6):
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
and School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
Ph (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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