[Taxacom] Our Monkey Ancestors

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Jan 13 22:37:05 CST 2010

Well, it is all just semantics. In one sense, snakes are (a clade of) legless lizards, but in another sense it is wrong to call a snake a lizard, or a bird a dinosaur. I agree that the latter sense is probably to be preferred, mainly so that we can call things by stable names independently of changing phylogenetic hypotheses. But, all I meant was that the person who "lumps apes with monkeys" has got a point - there is a sense in which they are correct, even if they are not using the terms in the preferred sense.

The Collembola/Hexapoda issue is not just semantics, of course, but the available evidence seems unable to definitively decide the issue, at least for now - so often the way!

An interesting question (touched on before) is what are animals? Are animals monophyletic? There is a tricky semantic issue here, involving what to say now that the Protozoa have been thrown out of the old Animalia. Did we discover that: (1) Protozoa aren't animals after all; or (2) Protozoa are animals, but animals are a polyphyletic grouping of Protozoa and Metazoa. I prefer (2), but they are very reluctant at Wikispecies, for example, to deny that lions and insects and things belong to a clade properly called Animalia, so they prefer (1)...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Kenneth Kinman [kennethkinman at webtv.net]
Sent: Thursday, 14 January 2010 5:03 p.m.
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Our Monkey Ancestors

I disagree,
       Calling apes "monkeys" is sort of like calling snakes "lizards",
either of which are even worse than "birds ARE dinosaurs" (rather than
birds are dinosaur descendants).  It's all cladistic lumping run amuck,
towards which I am not inclined to be charitable.
       And spiders + insects is far worse, being a polyphyletic
grouping.  People who study insects should be hanging around more with
those who study crustaceans.  Spiders are a whole different branch of
arthropods, and I don't think it is settled on which branch the
myriapods lie (or even if they comprise a single clade; now that might
be complicated).
        Fine if entomologists still study myriapods, but lumping
arachnology into entomology is like ornithologists studying Chiroptera
just because they happen to fly.  And I am still convinced that
Collembola (springtails) evolved from a completely different crustacean
group than other hexapods (hexapody evolved at least twice independently
from different crustaceans).  If the crustacean people (instead of
entomologists) studied springtails, we would probably have discovered
their true ancestry years ago.
      ---------Ken Kinman

Stephen wrote:
I just want to point out that it is easy to criticise others with
different views, but in this case if, as you say, monkeys are
paraphyletic w.r.t. apes, then a person who "lumps apes in with monkeys"
has actually got a good point, cladistically speaking! And spiders do
tend to be studied in entomology departments, and often in entomology
journals, so one could be charitable and interpret "insects" in the wide
sense of insects and allies, rather than in the strict sense of Hexapoda
(and what about Parainsecta, are they insects? It gets complicated ...)


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