Message 2001-06-0048: Re: subscribers

Wed, 02 May 2001 09:16:08 -0400

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Date: Wed, 02 May 2001 09:16:08 -0400
From: Kevin de Queiroz <Dequeiroz.Kevin@NMNH.SI.EDU>
Subject: Re: subscribers

David Hillis' points are well taken.  I would like to add that formally =
naming all these clades doesn't prevent people who want to present =
simplier taxonomies from doing so.  Thus, if Ken Kinman wants to present a =
simplified system in which only well known names and/or major clades are =
represented, that's perfectly acceptable.  For example, in several of his =
papers, Jacques Gauthier has published taxonomies in which only major =
crown clades (i.e., without the more inclusive "total' clades or any of =
the "intermediate" clades composed of the crowns and only some of their =
fossil outgroups) are represented.  Such an approach doesn't invalidate =
the names or clades that are not included; it only chooses not to =
represent them for the sake of simplicity.  Bob O'Hara's ideas about =
systematic generalization are relevant to this discussion.  O'Hara likens =
taxonomy to cartography, pointing out that systematists represent =
different degrees of resolution (in the sense of detail) in their =
taxonomies in much the same way that cartographers represent different =
degrees of resolution in their maps.  In any case, the point is that =
formally naming lots of clades doesn't require people such as Ken to have =
all those names in their taxonomies.

Kevin de Queiroz

>>> "David M. Hillis" <> - 5/1/01 10:21 PM >>>
>      I'm sorry if David (Hillis) felt insulted, but I certainly never =
said we
>should be "unconcerned" about intermediate taxa (on the contrary, I spend =
>of my time on them).  What I am saying is that there no need to give them
formal names.
>      I see no great need for formal taxa Theropoda, Coelurosauria,
>Maniraptora, etc., when informal names (theropods, coelurosaurs, =
>etc.) suffice.

Why then recognize any formal scientific names? Why not just use=20
common English names for all taxa? Because, first of all, everyone=20
doesn't speak English. Second of all, there are no rules for common=20
names, and no two people will use the same names. Your argument=20
doesn't apply to just a few taxa, it applies to all of them. There is=20
no logical justification for preferring formal scientific names for=20
just a few "special" taxa, especially when those decisions about what=20
is "special" are completely arbitrary. This is not an argument=20
against the PhyloCode, it is an argument against formal scientific=20
names in general.

If we are happy using the informal name lophotrochozoans rather than=20
the scientific name Lophotrochozoa (at least in English), why not=20
just say "mammals" rather than Mammalia and "tree frogs" rather than=20
Hylidae? We could make everyone use English, even in Chinese=20
publications! That would do away with the problem of naming species,=20
too...we could just give all the species of the world common English=20
names (after all, there are millions of them! Too many to learn!) and=20
then make everyone use the English names. I don't see that this is=20
any different than your argument...clades are no less a part of the=20
Tree of Life than are species, and there is no reason to exclude some=20
(but not all) of them from formal scientific nomenclature. If you=20
don't want to use a given scientific name, fine...use the common=20
name. No one makes birders use scientific names for species, either,=20
but that doesn't mean that we should not give bird species formal=20
scientific names.

>     Why not just call them lophotrochozoans, and let them remain an =
>taxon, at the very least until we can demonstrate whether or not it is =
>on symplesiomorphies rather than synapomorphies.

There are hundreds of published synapomorphies for Lophotrochozoa,=20
and the statistical support for the clade under any system of=20
evidence (parsimony or not) is strong. The fact that they are mostly=20
molecular characters is irrelevant to me; they are still evidence for=20
the group. Certainly, the evidence for Lophotrochozoa is stronger=20
than many of the formal taxa that you who is to decide=20
which taxa are important enough to recognize with formal names? This=20
just leaves it up to authorities to argue, and systematics takes a=20
giant step back into the dark ages.

David Hillis

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


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