Message 2004-10-0179: Re: use of vernacular names

Sun, 17 Oct 2004 16:28:12 +0200

[Previous by date - use of vernacular names]
[Next by date - Re: Mention of the Phylocode]
[Previous by subject - Re: update on PhyloCode web site]
[Next by subject - Re: web repository]

Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 16:28:12 +0200
From: [unknown]
To: PML <>
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=
other than Tetrapoda. "Tetrapod" is in reality not vernacular at all.=
see if "mice" will be applied to Myodonta, Muroidea, Muridae, Murinae=
*Mus*, we'll see if "birds" will be applied to Aves, Avialae, Pygosty=
Avipinna, Maniraptora or whatever, but "tetrapods" will -- consciousl=
y at
least -- never be applied to anything else than Tetrapoda. "Crocodile=
might mean Crododylia, Eusuchia, Neosuchia, Crododyliformes,
Crocodylomorpha, Suchia or whatever, but "crocodylians" will never me=
anything other than Crocodylia. Even "dinosaur" is not actually verna=
"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=
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=
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=
"tetrapod" only to *Tetrapoda* and to nothing else.
        Anyone who didn't, however, would hopelessly confuse their st=
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=
such and such characteristics when it doesn't. Or they'd calibrate th=
molecular trees with the appearance of "tetrapods", get bogus results=
, and
publish them as sensations -- and then people would have to find out =
precisely the original author meant with "tetrapods". (There are seve=
just such cases in the literature.)
        It would be almost as if phylogenetic definitions would still=
exist. It would be almost as if the PhyloCode had still not been intr=
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=
without escape.


Feedback to <> is welcome!