[Taxacom] Generic type of large genus belongs in different genus

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Mon Apr 8 02:39:18 CDT 2013

It seems to me that this discussion makes a mockery of notion that nomenclature is separate from taxonomy. Once you have bionomial names, and insist on those names being "meaningful" (i.e., the genus name tells you something about relationships) then you have a recipe for instability.

The ICZN decision regarding Drosophila melanogaster was the right one in my opinion, but for the wrong reasons. Why does it matter if Drosophila melanogaster sits in a phylogeny next to some Sophophora species? What matters is its relationships, not what we call it. 

Names are a poor way to convey relationships, why burden them with this role? If you have no other way of conveying relationships then perhaps the trade off between stability and meaning seems worthwhile. But we do have powerful ways of visualising relationships, so it seems perverse to continue to change names (thus annoying people who use them) in the hope that names remain "meaningful". We don't expect the name of an organism to be meaningful ("maximus" might not be the biggest species, "africanus" might come from Australia), can we not let this last scrap of meaning go and save us (and the wider community) some grief?



Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

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