[Taxacom] Elimination of paraphyly: sensible or not?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Feb 9 00:10:02 CST 2018


>So where are my economic rewards?<

I was thinking more of the economic benefits to the employing institution, via overheads from external funding.

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Fri, 9/2/18, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Elimination of paraphyly: sensible or not?
 To: 
 Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 9 February, 2018, 6:31 PM
 
 In response to Stephen's
 assertion that  "Perhaps the elimination of
 paraphyly is being driven instead by economic
 factors, doing phylogenies
 being a more cost
 efficient way for institutional scientists to spend their
 time on than alpha taxonomy?" I would have
 to ask what economic factors are
 driving my
 work where I consciously look to construct non
 paraphyletic
 groups? I certainly spend a lot
 of time on alpha taxonomy but not in a
 phylogenetic void. So where are my economic
 rewards? Of course I duly note
 that Stephen
 says 'perhaps' which also means 'perhaps
 not' so perhaps no
 one knows either way
 anyway, or perhaps not :)
 
 John Grehan
 
 On
 Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 5:42 PM, Neal Evenhuis <neale at bishopmuseum.org>
 wrote:
 
 > I
 had a similar discussion with a pattern cladist once and his
 response
 > was “Hey, you’ve got a
 point …. but if you comb your hair differently, it
 > won’t show.”
 >
 >  -Neal
 >
 > On Stardate 2/8/18, 12:07 PM, Star-trooper
 "Taxacom on behalf of Stephen
 >
 Thorpe" <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-bounces@
 > mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz<mailto:
 > stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>>
 wrote:
 >
 > Hi all,
 > I have been giving some thought to the
 cladistic obsession of eliminating
 >
 paraphyly in taxonomic classification. For many taxa (above
 species), the
 > subtaxa consist of one or
 more clearly monophyletic groups, plus a possibly
 > paraphyletic residue (i.e. no apomorphies
 to bind the residue together into
 > a
 monophylum). So, if we must eliminate paraphyly (or possible
 paraphyly),
 > the only options are to
 either: (1) subsume the monophyletic subtaxa into
 > the paraphyletic residue; or (2) break up
 the paraphyletic residue into
 >
 monophyletic subtaxa. Effectively the two options may
 actually be
 > equivalent. An example
 might help to illustrate my point. Let's take a
 > simplistic view of reptiles as scaly
 tetrapods, birds as feathery winged
 >
 bipeds derived from reptiles, and mammals as hairy tetrapods
 derived from
 > reptiles. So, amniotes
 (reptiles, birds and mammals) are a monophyletic
 > group, as are birds and also mammals, but
 not reptiles (reptiles being the
 >
 "paraphyletic residue"). We wish to retain birds
 and also mammals as useful
 > monophyletic
 taxa, for obvious reasons. So, what to do? Luckily,
 within
 > reptiles there are some
 monophyletic subgroups of sufficient diversity to
 > be useful, but this might not have been
 the case if all reptiles were just
 >
 basically "skinks", with only species or perhaps
 also generic differences
 > between them.
 Had this been so, amniotes would have to be taxonomically
 > split between numerous (maybe hundreds)
 virtually identical taxa of
 >
 "skinks", plus birds and also mammals as just two
 taxa at the same level
 > (not necessarily
 a ranked level, but direct child taxa of amniotes). Would
 > this be a useful classification of
 amniotes? I suggest that it would be far
 > more useful to recognise a single
 paraphyletic taxon of reptiles (all the
 >
 "skinks" in the hypothetical example), plus birds
 and also mammals (i.e.
 > just 3 direct
 child taxa of amniotes). I wonder for plants, fungi and
 also
 > invertebrates, if there might be
 many taxa analogous to the above
 >
 hypothetical example, with a paraphyletic residue consisting
 of hundreds of
 > "skinks", but
 also with just one or two very distinct and diverse
 > monophyletic subtaxa? If so, would it be
 sensible to eliminate paraphyly or
 > best
 just to live with a known paraphyletic residue as a unified
 subtaxon?
 > Given the amount of limited
 resources which are being allocated to projects
 > to eliminate paraphyly, to the detriment
 of alpha taxonomy, it would be
 > nice to
 think that there was a clearly good reason for the
 elimination of
 > paraphyly, but I'm
 not so sure that there is! The usual argument seems to
 > be that you cannot make meaningful
 predictions from paraphyletic taxa, but
 >
 how much biology does rely on the making of predictions
 based on taxon
 > membership, and what
 proportion of those predictions end up being true
 > anyway? For example, you might predict
 that a newly discovered braconid is
 > a
 parasitoid, but a few braconids are phytophagous anyway. So,
 I guess that
 > the main question that I
 am posing is whether we think that the benefits of
 > monophyly justify the spending of so much
 limited resources on the
 > elimination of
 paraphyly? Perhaps the elimination of paraphyly is being
 > driven instead by economic factors, doing
 phylogenies being a more cost
 > efficient
 way for institutional scientists to spend their time on
 than
 > alpha taxonomy?
 > Stephen
 >
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