[Taxacom] a delayed reaction

fautin at ku.edu fautin at ku.edu
Sun Jan 2 21:06:40 CST 2011

To add a perspective from a group of which the evolutionary history is 
very obscure, in which features that are useful for identification may not 
be phylogenetically informative, and in which the few classifications that 
exist are very different, Phylocode would be very unstable.  Yes, if you 
know the evolutionary history, it may work -- but the Linnaean system can 
be adjusted to reflect our current ideas about phylogeny (after all, it 
was designed to reflect phylogeny, too -- it is just that names have had 
the inertia of the understanding of the time they were created).  If you 
don't know the evolutionary history, it does not.  And by evolutionary 
history, I do not mean simply matching gene sequences.  After all, 
attributes such as behavior and morphology have evolved, and their signals 
cannot be ignored if we hope to understand biology (not just create 

Any system is likely to collect the same sort of inertia as the 
Linnaean IF it remains relatively stable.  And if it does not -- if it can 
track changes daily -- then stability is the loser.  Because, of course, 
our understanding of evolutionary history changes through time -- we like 
to think we are ever approaching Nirvana, but we have no really good way 
to know (save divine affirmation).  So I am amused by these messages that 
assume knowledge of the REAL phylogeny, which leads to derogatory labels 
for taxa that do not conform to it.

Daphne G. Fautin
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Curator, Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
Haworth Hall
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7534  USA

telephone 1-785-864-3062
fax 1-785-864-5321
evo user name fautin
website www.nhm.ku.edu/~inverts

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On Sun, 19 Dec 2010, Richard Pyle wrote:

>> Why are we attempting to classify life in the 21st
>> century without including our understanding of the "tree of life"?
> I think *everyone* wants to "include" our understanding of the "tree of
> life" while attempting to classify organisms.  Indeed, I bet everyone wants
> our best understanding of phylogeny to *dominate* the classification system.
> The discussion is about whether *every other* aspect of biology should be
> *completely* ignored when assigning names to organisms (i.e., should
> nomenclature be based *exclusively* on phylogeny, or should it also reflect
> -- when appropriate -- other aspects of organismal biology).
> My feeling is the same as it has been for many years:  I think if you want
> to *strictly* represent phylogeny in Nomenclature, then you should stick to
> a system like Phylocode.  If you want to carry on with the incredibly
> successful Linnaean Nomenclatural system, I suspect it's best to do so in a
> way that is reasonably consistent with its 250-year legacy.
> Aloha,
> Rich

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