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

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Wed Apr 10 17:23:08 CDT 2013

Dear Doug,

I confess ignorance regarding the ICZN code, but I'm not aware that it mandates that congeneric species be, in fact, related. 

I'm not advocating abandoning the code, rather (and I am regretting ever opening my mouth) I am simply asking whether changing names to fit a classification is worth the decline in our ability to find information about that taxon. From my perspective we are trading information retrieval against a crude tool to represent relationships. Given that we have better ways of representing relationship than genus + species, maybe we should ponder leaving names alone. Taking Drosophila melanogaster as an example, I see no reason to change its name, no matter where it goes on the fly tree.



On 10 Apr 2013, at 22:55, Doug Yanega wrote:

> 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.
> Sincerely,
> -- 
> 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)
>              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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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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