[Taxacom] Magnoliophyta (NCBI classification); and Peter Ashlock

Ken Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 23 21:45:40 CST 2013

Dear All,


      Well, I just checked and I am glad to see that NCBI still uses the formal taxon name Magnoliophyta for angiosperms.  However, they use an unfortunate and somewhat confusing mixture of formal and informal names for its subdivisions: basal Magnoliophyta, Ceratophyllales, Magnoliidae, eudicotyledons, and Liliopsida.


       The informal "eudicotyledons" could easily be made formal (like the other taxa) by calling it Class Rosopsida (as an increasing number of botanists do).  Class Liliopsida for monocots is just fine.  And their basal Magnoliophyta (more accurately "most-basal") could be combined with Ceratophyllales and Magnoliidae to form Class Magnoliopsida (paleodicots). 


      This creates a more concise, easy to comprehend, classification of three Classes of flowering plants.  Why APG wants to cling to their informal taxa names when such a useful formal classification exists is extremely frustrating.  I am sure the main reason for doing so is that Class Magnoliopsida (paleodicots) is paraphyletic.  


      No matter how messy it can makes classifications, there is now the widespread notion that "THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT PARAPHYLY", because it is viewed as unnatural and thus unscientific.  When will it finally sink in that the equivalent of this "commandment" was printed in a book, not on stone tablets.  If we are to celebrate Hennig, I believe it should be for his contributions to cladistic "analysis" (which yielded much phylogenetic fruit), not for his ideas about cladistic "classification" (i.e. strict cladification).  


     Peter Ashlock in particular understood this, and yet his contributions on this subject are largely neglected because Hennig has been put on such a pedestal by his adherents.  I can only hope to live long enough to see a more balanced approach based on both of their contributions, but I am frankly no longer very hopeful that this will happen any time soon.


                    ---------------------Ken Kinman



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