[Taxacom] On genera, splitting and ranking

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Sat Jul 13 13:40:28 CDT 2013


Actually,  the main point of my email was in line with Chris'
interpretation.  I added the "P.S." as a subtle way of making the statement
that Stephen attributes to me.

I completely agree with everything Chris said, and I understand that my
extension of it to species (via my "P.S.") is not universally shared.

But just to clear up some potential miscommunication:  I'm not suggesting
that species *cannot* be defined objectively. Indeed, any taxon rank *could*
be defined objectively, if there was a universally shared definition of what
the rank means, and a set of objective criteria which could be used to test
whether two individual organisms belong to the same group, or different
groups.  The problem is that for 250+ years, there has been no such
universally shared definition for any rank (including species), and
therefore, defacto, the vast majority of species that have been (and
continue to be) asserted (named, synonymized, etc.) follow the same mainly
subjective rules that other ranks do.  The main difference is that people
have at least *tried* to establish definitions for what a species is.  

But, to me at least, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the reason no
single species definition has been universally adopted, is that evolution
does not produce "species".  The entire history of all biodiversity on Earth
is a continuous, unbroken sequence of individual reproductive events.  No
matter where we try to draw lines through this mesh of organismal history,
those lines will, in the vast majority of cases, be drawn primarily for
purposes of convenience for human-human communication.

Aloha,
Rich

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Stephen Thorpe
> Sent: Friday, July 12, 2013 3:19 PM
> To: Chris Thompson; Scott Thomson; Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] On genera, splitting and ranking
> 
> I think you may have missed Rich's main point, Chris? He was applying it
also
> to SPECIES, which is where I am not so sure ...
> 
> Stephen
> 
> 
> ________________________________
> From: Chris Thompson <xelaalex at cox.net>
> To: Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com>; Taxacom
> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Saturday, 13 July 2013 1:11 PM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] On genera, splitting and ranking
> 
> 
> ALL;
> 
> This is a great thread, etc.
> 
> As Rich Pyle indicated, it is not only genera but all higher categories.
> 
> When one examines the historical record, we clearly see the trend to
> continue to split more finely and to create NEW taxa.
> 
> And today with impact factors, etc., it is critical to publish NEW
> information, etc.
> 
> So, today as yesterday, the reward is on publishing NEW, and that means in
> reference to higher groups, splitting existing concepts.
> 
> And it is clear as Hennig years ago pointed out, there is NOTHING
Scientific
> about the current trend in splitting, etc. There is NO objective
SCIENTIFIC
> standard for ranking of taxonomic categories.
> 
> So what in one part of the clade (Diptera) would meanly be considered a
> genus, in another part of the clade is ranked as a family (Inbiomyiidae).
> 
> What is clear in Diptera, IS when there are general users, the public,
> biologists, etc., and for them the generic concept remains conservative.
> 
> So, most still accept, for example, AEDES, for the common vectors of
various
> disease; or DROSOPHILA for melanogaster, the genetic model, etc.,
> instead of the split classifications of Stegomyia or Sophophora.
> 
> Oh, well ...
> 
> Sincerely,
> 
> Chris
> 
> from home
> 
> 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Scott Thomson
> Sent: Friday, July 12, 2013 1:53 PM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] On genera
> 
> This thread seems to have been split, but I wanted to reply to this part
of
> it also. I also agree that this is what we currently do. I think it was
> this comment I was referring to when I mentioned splitting and lumping in
> the other thread. My personal view is that a lot of thought should go into
> wether or not to describe a genus, significant evidence, and much more
than
> I often see should be presented to demonstrate the need for a genus.
> Equally there should not be fear, or bias, or whatever it is against
> lumping genera. I am hopeful that we can eventually get to a better
> definition of the genus. But its not there yet.
> 
> Cheers, Scott
> 
> 
> On Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 1:25 PM, Richard Pyle
> <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>wrote:
> 
> >
> > I completely agree with Jason on this:
> >
> > > I would strongly agree that it is a taxonomic convenience so we can
> > > communicate better and break down biodiversity for our understanding.
> I
> > > would disagree with the need for monophyly though, and rather push for
> > > non-polyphyletic genera, at least until taxonomists show some
restraint
> > > naming genera, or at least an equal enthusiasm for synonymizing them.
> >
> > Moreover, I would extend this to all taxonomic ranks.
> >
> > Aloha,
> > Rich
> >
> > P.S. Yes, I meant *all*.
> >
> >
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> 
> --
> Scott Thomson
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