[Taxacom] Underlying synapomorphy
Kipling (Kip) Will
kipwill at berkeley.edu
Sat Mar 7 20:37:10 CST 2009
"Underlying synapomorphy" is more or less equivalent to the notion of
atavism and largely overlapping with orthogenesis. Taken as hypothesized
explanations of observed patterns these are relatively harmless as long
as one recognizes what is actual observation and what is a good story.
But confusing pattern and process is a venerable part of our field I fear.
If taken as a priori truth, a model of how character state distributions
came to be as they are, or how they "should" be distributed, these can
lead to a dangerous ability to explain away any pattern one does not
like. Or perhaps more accurately, a preferred grouping is determined and
any conflict (patterns of homoplasy)can be dismissed ad hoc. "These
belong in a group because they share an underlying synapomorphy" could
be used to justify a preferred grouping sans any observable evidence
supporting such a grouping. Studies of development or genetics could
provide actual synapomorphies, shared and observable. No one would need
to call them "underlying synapomorphies."
Kipling W. Will
Associate Professor/Insect Systematist
Associate Director,Essig Museum of Entomology
137 Mulford Hall
ESPM Dept.- Organisms & Environment Div.
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
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