Nereis - nomenclature -Reply

Kristian Fauchald FAUCHALD.KRISTIAN at
Tue Feb 10 16:17:36 EST 1998

I had not really planned to get involved in this debate:  To a certain
extent I made my opinion rather clear already in 1977 in the Key. 
However, I believe there are some important points that must be considered

There are two distinct problems; one is strictly taxonomic and has to do
with the names only; the other has to do with biology and the information
content in the use of a given name.  

The Code lumps the "sub" categories with their respective main category:
subspecies with species, subgenera with genera and subfamilies with
families.  It talks about them as species-level, generic-level and
family-level taxa.  The rules for each is then specified. Thus for
taxonomic purposes it is simpler to avoid the use of the sub-categories
and very little is gained by using them in a taxonomic sense, except
making the names longer and more likely to be mis-spelled or mis-used.  As
pointed out by Geoff Read, the formulation Hediste (Nereis) is just awful
and completely incorrect.  It is not a new problem.  I believe I have seen
both in Blainville's and Grube's publication from early-mid last century.

In an informative sense, we name monophyletic taxa; the use of a
particular name, such as "Hediste" instead of "Neanthes" implies a
hypothesis of monophyly (except of course in cases where a specific
analysis has been done and monophyly demonstrated).   In keys and
overviews, we tend to use the simplest possible characters to use in
identifications.  Quite often simple presence/absence characters are to be
preferred in a key, to a shape designation, since the latter frequently
does not translate well into other languages etc.  (I can vividly remember
trying figure out what the shapes of the phyllodocid dorsal cirri was
supposed to look like as a young student in Norway).  However, as pointed
out by Judy Fournier, there is a lot more to the differences of shapes than
those used in keys; the parapodial structures are really very different and
can be well characterized and may well turn out to be the kinds of
apomorphies we end up using for demonstrating the monophyly of these
clades.    The process of demonstrating monophyly, once done, may make it
possible for us to feel certain that the simple characters we have been
using have validity (or not, depending on the analysis of course).  

The nereidids are biologically often very similar as pointed out by Dr.
Goerke, who knows more about these worms than anybody else I know about.
However, such generalizations may or may not be supported by an analysis
of relationships.  I hope that this will turn out to be the case, because
at that time, the more inclusive clades than the species may turn out to
be supported not only by morphological characteristics but also by
characterizable biological/ecological characteristics, surely as
inheritable as the morphological ones.

I hope somebody will do the analysis we need, and we need it badly,
since the nereidids are such favorite subjects for experiments and so

Kristian Fauchald

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