[Taxacom] The more you know the more you lump|split.

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Jul 18 21:53:03 CDT 2013

Hi Alan,

Good stuff.

> one can choose
> to A) taxonomically recognize the variation (at whatever rank), explaining
> away the problematic imperfections of the splits, or one can B) lump,
> invoking "complex patterns of variation, making taxonomic segregation
> impractical" [or some varian  t of that language].

I guess my suggestion was: C) encourage less entanglement between
expressions of taxonomy/phylogeny/etc. and Linnean nomenclature (i.e., the
"ranks" thing).  

Evolution does not produce unambiguous clusters of organisms that correlate
well with our standard ranks (lots of "fuzz").  Patterns of variation (and
associated clusters of organisms) are indeed "real", and that "reality" is
largely a direct reflection of phylogenetic affinities and patterns of
shared ancestry. But the evolution of those patterns over time do not always
(often? ever?) fall into clean units that we can map to nomenclatural ranks
(even with all the supers, subs, infras, and the like).

So: let nomenclature be nomenclature; let nomenclatural classification
mostly (kinda sorta) reflect the aspects of phylogenetic relationships that
are mostly (kinda sorta) stable and uncontroversial; and use other
communication tools (cladograms and the like) to communicate all the
(rank-free) stuff that people who like to infer such things need in order to
communicate with each other. In that paradigm, there no longer needs to be
lumpers and splitters.

Everybody wins! 


P.S. A note to Phylocoders: I'm actually on your side much more than many of
the folks on this list; which is exactly my own experience has taught me not
to "go there".  Yikes!  I hope, through this P.S., that I didn't just
inadvertently "go there"......

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