[Taxacom] New synapomorphy for humans and orangutans

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon Jan 4 09:17:00 CST 2010

Well, synapomorphies are part of parsimony cluster analysis, which for the past 30 years has wrongly used the idea that the only evolution is gradualistic evolution with accumulation of neutral traits, and therefore, e.g., 3 traits are more informative than two. What if the 3 traits are selected on as a package for some particular environment? I think this is common. Then the two traits, if accumulated through drift, would be more telling of evolutionary relationships. 
The best model of evolution is the "natural key" to taxa that incorporates morphological and molecular cluster analyses when available. This takes into account both synapomorphies (weighted separately for each node) and autapomorphies. 
Otherwise, the "tree" or lineage part of a cladogram is a "Meinong's jungle" of nearly meaningless nodes that could be largely replaced by surviving ancestral taxa, which would make the cladogram more parsimonious.
We all know that just because there is a word for something does not mean that that thing exists; well, just because a complex method that is supported by 50 million phylogeneticists exists does not mean it is a good way to evaluate single historical events of long-ago. Cladograms can be checked in only the most fuzzy fashion by other information, and it is that fuzzy part that is a killer.
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166 U.S.A.
richard.zander at mobot.org


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Kirk Fitzhugh
Sent: Sat 1/2/2010 8:17 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] New synapomorphy for humans and orangutans

Kinman wrote: "Declaring it a synapomorphy is at best premature."

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. It's not advocated in science for nothing.


J. Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D.

More information about the Taxacom mailing list