[Taxacom] Intuition in taxonomy

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Wed Mar 4 09:24:37 CST 2009

Oh, I don't know, Bob. Pressing the yellow button and deciding on evolutionary relationships would, yes, be intutitive if there were no theory, data, techniques, and probabilistic evaluations of which evolutionary relationships are most probable to entertain, and in some cases which one is clearly most probable given what we know and what we know about what we don't know.
There are three rules of thumb, which I do not think are intuitive. (1) Exemplars more distant on a cladogram (however it is derived) are more evolutionarily distant. (2) Nodes or fossils deeper in a cladogram are more evolutionarily distant than the exemplars ending the lineages. (3) Molecular analyses generally fit morphological evaluations of tree (amazing!). Given these observations, and a definition of evolution of descent with modification (of taxa or traits), we try to come up with methods that are better than the rules of thumb. Measuring how much better than the rules of thumb different techniques are is still not well established or even much sought after.
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: Bob Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au]
Sent: Tue 3/3/2009 6:20 PM
To: Richard Zander; TAXACOM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Intuition in taxonomy

According to the manual for the Zanderian Zetetoscope (TAXACOM, 28
January 2009)

"Press the Orange button. Sort specimens and types into groups using
whatever techniques seem appropriate.
Press the Yellow button. Decide evolutionary relationships using
whatever techniques seem appropriate.

It seems to me that intuition applies in pushing the Yellow button. A
zoologist colleague of mine says

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