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

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Apr 10 16:55:29 CDT 2013

On 4/10/13 2:19 PM, Roderic Page wrote:
> Dear Mary,
> It's not so much that names are without meaning, it's just that we have to be circumspect about how we interpret them. A species called "Aus australiensis" is most likely to be found in Australia, but it might not. If not, I'd accept that the name was misleading and move on. I don't change the name to more accurately reflect its distribution (nor would I change it back if it was rediscovered in Australia).
> I'm suggesting we apply the same approach to relationships. Two congeneric species are likely to be related, but might not be. If they aren't, could we not live with that? Must we change the name?
> In my extended family, surnames hardly correspond to actual relationships: some children have different surnames names to their mother, some couples are divorced but retain the same surname. Everybody seems pretty clear what the actual relationships are, and that surnames are a poor predictor of those relationships.
That's quite a different context, though. We have had centuries to 
become familiar with the idea that if two things are in the same genus, 
that we can typically assume they are more closely related to one 
another than either is to something in a different genus. This implicit 
grouping "algorithm" predates the development of phylogenetic theory; 
all it requires is acknowledgment that species actually have 
relationships to other species. To change the system so species we KNOW 
are unrelated might still be grouped under the same generic name would 
be extremely confusing to anyone outside of the experts on that group - 
and do even worse damage to the public perception of taxonomy.

Yes, I know that as a Commissioner, I'm not exactly an unbiased observer 
here (since the Code would have to be abandoned in order to achieve your 
vision of leaving binomials untouched in perpetuity), but there is a 
clear and significant utility to higher-rank taxonomic categories (they 
convey information), and genus names are arguably the most crucial part 
of that hierarchy.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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