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Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 16:28:12 +0200
To: PML <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: use of vernacular names
> I think David may have misunderstood what it was > that I suggested to Jason. I was not proposing > that the PhyloCode (or any other code) fix the > meaning of vernacular names such as tetrapod. I don't know how else we could get people to apply "tetrapod" to anyt= hing other than Tetrapoda. "Tetrapod" is in reality not vernacular at all.= We'll see if "mice" will be applied to Myodonta, Muroidea, Muridae, Murinae= or *Mus*, we'll see if "birds" will be applied to Aves, Avialae, Pygosty= lia, Avipinna, Maniraptora or whatever, but "tetrapods" will -- consciousl= y at least -- never be applied to anything else than Tetrapoda. "Crocodile= s" might mean Crododylia, Eusuchia, Neosuchia, Crododyliformes, Crocodylomorpha, Suchia or whatever, but "crocodylians" will never me= an anything other than Crocodylia. Even "dinosaur" is not actually verna= cular. "Mammoth" is borderline. > I was not aware that the Academie > Francaise did this, I don't know if it does. Probably it doesn't. I just think they might= get angry if we messed with the French language. :-) > Someone (it may > have been Jason) pointed out to me that in > debates such as how to define Tetrapoda, what > people get most emotional about is not the > scientific name but the corresponding vernacular > name. This is clearly the case with "bird" and a small number of other case= s, but -- I'm risking a guess -- most certainly not with "tetrapod". > For example, the notion that four-limbed > vertebrates that lie outside the crown are not > "tetrapods" understandably upsets people. > However, if we continue to allow the vernacular > name "tetrapod" to be used freely as individual > people see fit, it can be applied to the crown o > the total group or anything in between, as > desired by the user. If Tetrapoda is applied to > the crown, members of Pan-Tetrapoda could (and no > doubt would) be referred to as tetrapods. > Permitting this reduces the intensity of feeling > about which clade (crown, total, or > apomorphy-based) a particular scientific name is > applied to. I think this is not true. It just wouldn't happen. Most workers would= apply "tetrapod" only to *Tetrapoda* and to nothing else. Anyone who didn't, however, would hopelessly confuse their st= udents, who would conclude in the opposite direction that *Tetrapoda* corresp= onds to whatever the professor calls a tetrapod. Researchers outside the fiel= d of Devonian and Carboniferous tetrapod paleontology would find "tetrapod= s" in the literature and then write in their own works that *Tetrapoda* pos= sesses such and such characteristics when it doesn't. Or they'd calibrate th= eir molecular trees with the appearance of "tetrapods", get bogus results= , and publish them as sensations -- and then people would have to find out = what precisely the original author meant with "tetrapods". (There are seve= ral just such cases in the literature.) It would be almost as if phylogenetic definitions would still= not exist. It would be almost as if the PhyloCode had still not been intr= oduced. This is precisely the state of affairs we want to end, I think. > Specialists whose own research has focused on the > name concerned will no doubt continue to harbor > strong feelings about how the name should be > applied, and if we do this in all fields, we'll alienate all specialists..., > but I suspect that most others will > accept the decision with a shrug of the shoulders. Only as long as they won't find out that they've been led into a conf= usion without escape.