Message 2001-02-0006: apomorphy-based names

Mon, 05 Feb 2001 16:47:58 -0600

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Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2001 16:47:58 -0600
From: "David M. Hillis" <>
Subject: apomorphy-based names

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<div>In response to Jonathan Wagner's proposals:</div>
<div>Speaking as someone who hates the idea of apomorphy-based
definitions of clades, I would NOT want to see recommendations that
suggest their use. I've had to accept that some people would like to
include them in the code, and that some people even prefer them, but
I certainly don't see any reason why we should recommend them. I
would not use apomorphy-based definitions for any name, whether or
not the name suggests an apomorphy. I think a node-based definition
of <i>Tetrapoda</i> is clear, but woe unto those who would try to
restrict the name to things with four feet (whatever that might mean,
which is, of course, a completely subjective decision on the one
hand, and completely inaccurate on the other). It would really get
absurd trying to pin an apomorphy-based definition on a clade based
on a name created from an apomorphy that was imagined:
<i>Gastrotheca</i> comes to mind. <i>Gastrotheca</i> is a clade of
frogs that is supposed to be named for the distinctive pouch that the
females use to carry their eggs (hence the name stomach-pouch). The
problem is that none of the species of <i>Gastrotheca</i> have a
pouch on their stomach; instead, they all have it on their backs.
Pinning names based on apomorphies to apomorphy-based definitions
simply extends the myth that some apomorphies are
&quot;essential&quot; to the particular clade, or that scientific
names are necessarily meaningful. I think we should do everything we
can to shed that old essentialism.</div>

David M. Hillis<br>
Director, School of Biological Sciences<br>
Director's office: 512-232-3690 (FAX: 512-232-3699)<br>
Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor<br>
Section of Integrative Biology<br>
University of Texas<br>
Austin, TX 78712<br>
Research Office: 512-471-5792<br>
Lab: 512-471-5661<br>
FAX: 512-471-3878<br>


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