[Taxacom] orangutan outrage

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Thu Jun 25 12:24:25 CDT 2009

Ken makes my point. He says on one hand that whole genomes will not make morphological studies irrelevant or scientifically meaningless and then goes on to say that they will show us which morphologies are most relevant to phylogeny - which is another way to say that without whole genomes (or any other chosen molecular technique) the morphology is phylogenetically meaningless. Then one has to say that 'complex' morphological characters are still "important" especially for fossils. This is the kind of cognitive dissonances that permeates current systematics. If morphology is garbage in the living then it is garbage in the fossil.

That genomes should show the human-orangutan relationship I would agree. In its morphological manifestation that is what the genomes already show! Its only in its molecular aspect that the base (bean) counting methods appear to be cladistically inadequate for getting the right answer (assuming the orangutan is the right answer).

John Grehan

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Kenneth Kinman
> Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 12:44 PM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] orangutan outrage
> Dear All,
>        The genome sequencing of a hylobatid (gibbon) began
> in 2006, and such a whole genome (for a lesser ape) is a perfectly good
> outgroup to greater ape genomes. It should be available shortly (if it
> isn't already).  An Old World monkey genome could also be used (or other
> primates), but gibbons are phylogenetically closer.
>         As for John's contention that whole genomes will
> make morphological studies irrelevant or scientifically meaningless, I
> disagree. It only means that we have a new tool to better show us which
> morphologies are most relevant to phylogeny (such as tricolpate pollen
> for angiosperms).  The old sequence studies relied more heavily on
> single base changes, which being simpler make them less reliable (not
> necessarily "unreliable").  Genome studies will be more reliable, not
> only because there are more bases to study, but many more examples of
> complex sequence changes (like SINES, LINES, etc.).  But complex
> morphological characters are still important, and this is particularly
> true of fossil taxa (for which we have very few molecular sequences
> available).  Anyway, if orangutans and humans really are sister groups,
> their genomes should show evidence of this.
>         --------Ken Kinman
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