Message 2001-06-0106: Re: hands off genera?

Sat, 19 May 2001 00:06:05 -0600 (MDT)

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Date: Sat, 19 May 2001 00:06:05 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: Re: hands off genera?

      It's late and I am tired, so I will be very blunt and to the point.=
think you are making a huge mistake by not excluding generic names from t=
initial phase of PhyloCode testing.  I guess I shouldn't complain, since =
believe this will almost certainly doom PhyloCode to failure, but
unfortunately it will at the same time exacerbate the problems and confus=
it will cause in the interrim.
      Delimiting species boundaries is also arbitrary, especially when yo=
take the time dimension into consideration.  Generic boundaries are more
arbitrary than species boundaries, but less so than the boundaries of hig=
ranked taxa.
      Therefore, I believe genera are less arbitrary than higher taxa and=

should be considered separately from those higher taxa, especially becaus=
e of
the very long history of binomial nomenclature, in which generic names ar=
e an
integral part of species names.
      Frankly, if you fail to reconsider, I think the rest of your work o=
PhyloCode will ultimately be a waste of time, and I therefore I see littl=
point in participating in this list if you continue to insist that genera=
just as arbitrary as taxa at higher rank (thus assuring that PhyloCode's
failure will be a foregone conclusion).  Sorry, but that is the way it ap=
to me.
Philip Cantino <> wrote:
I am commenting on two related messages.

Ken Kinman wrote:

>        Glad to hear you have made progress on the provision to
>mark phylocode names (with a slash) as was discussed on TAXACOM last fal=

and Mike Keesey wrote:

>I always prefered the "Clade _Name_" vs. "(Rank) Name" idea myself (e.g.=

>Clade _Synapsida_ vs. Subclassis Synapsida). Advantages over the slash
>system are that it can be spoken and can be readily appreciated by anyon=
>even if they are unfamiliar with PhyloCode.

I can see advantages of each of these methods, and other methods have
been proposed as well.  The current draft of the PhyloCode does not
attempt to dictate which method should be used.  Rather, it simply
suggests (Rec. 6.1B) that it may be desirable to indicate which code
governs a name in certain circumstances.  Two examples are provided
showing how this might be done, but the examples are not intended to
be exhaustive.  Once the PhyloCode is implemented, is is likely that
frequency of usage of the various conventions will eventually lead to
the universal adoption of one of them by authors and editors.

On the other hand, perhaps this recommendation should be
reconsidered.  I have argued repeatedly that PhyloCode names should
be distinguished by a mandatory symbol of some sort (a slash would be
fine with me), but the majority of the advisory group strongly
opposes this.  An intermediate approach would be to have the use of a
distinguishing symbol remain optional but designate a particular
convention that is to be used if one wishes to indicate which code
governs a name.  This is comparable to the approach taken to author
citations in Art. 20; author citations are not required, but if
authors are cited, certain conventions must be used.  If the
PhyloCode takes this approach, it would have to be determined before
implementation which convention will be used to distinguish
governance of names rather than allowing systematists at large to
determine this through usage.

>The slash idea does kind of bring up an interesting possibility -- a usa=
>parallel to that of computer directories:
>(But colons would probably be better understood.)

I think this was one reason why the slash was proposed.  (Is this true,

Ken Kinman wrote:

>        During those same discussions, you probably recall that I =

>suggested that
>generic names (as well as specific names) not be included in the initial=

>testing phase of phylocode.  Now others are suggesting the same thing on=

>        Is this being seriously considered?  I hope so, since one of Dav=
>Baum's stated goals is to avoid taxonomic chaos, and it seems increasing=
>clear that trying to tackle generic names before testing phylocode at hi=
>taxonomic levels could result in more chaos, rather than less.
>              -

No, it isn't being seriously considered.  A clade is a clade,
regardless of its rank under the ICBN, ICZN, etc.  If the PhyloCode
is to be logically consistent and cohesive, it must govern the naming
of all clades.  Furthermore, there are practical problems with
excluding genus names.  Some clades are classified under the current
system as genera by some authors and as subgenera by others.  Would
the PhyloCode be able to name these clades or not?  What if a clade
that is traditionally classified as a subgenus or section is
subsequently "elevated" to the genus level under the IC_N (for
example, the publication of the genus Pseudocaryopteris, based on
Caryopteris section Pseudocaryopteris) after it has been named under
the PhyloCode?  Would the PhyloCode then have to abandon the name
Pseudocaryopteris now that it refers to a genus?  As we all know,
rank designation is arbitrary and biologically meaningless.  To me,
it makes no sense to place restrictions on the PhyloCode based on
arbitrary ranking decisions under the traditional system.


Philip D. Cantino
Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701-2979

Phone: (740) 593-1128; 593-1126
Fax: (740) 593-1130
e-mail: =

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