Uninomials

Fredrik Pleijel pleijel at cimrs1.mnhn.fr
Wed Jun 28 17:56:26 EST 2000


Geoff:
>I am not sure that taxonomy itself, especially much of the existing body of
>polychaete taxonomy, has much to do with nature in the sense of living
>animals, reproducing, and interacting with their environment. Just thought
>I'd mention that for perspective.  Fred may well concur - see p629 iii of
>Pleijel & Rouse LITU paper - but I don't agree that taxonomists are 'forced'
>to describe organisms as new species - some  just do it out of habit without
>much thought at all. If they mostly had decided "a few dead specimens"
>DID NOT represent a new species we all might be better off today.

I believe polychaete and other taxonomy has  a lot to do with nature. All
nature doesn't consist of things interacting today, they also have a
history. The core of taxonomy/systematics to me is to discover the tree of
life.

>> "Flexuosus (Ophiodromus, Hesionidae) Sars,
>> 1862". At subsequent mentions only a single name is used, e.g.,
>> "Flexuosus", or followed with an abbreviation of a more inclusive taxon,
>> e.g., "Flexuosus (O.)"; whatever is considered necessary for clarity."
>
>Or you could write the binominal forwards instead of awkwardly backwards
>and have Ophiodromus flexuosus back again. Would that really be so bad
>a thing?

I dislike it because the species name is a binomial, and this name changes
with changing ideas of its affinities (or even worse: for purely
nomenclatural reasons). For example flexuosus in the literature occurs as:

Nereis flexuosa
Stephania flexuosa
Ophiodromus flexuosus

Think about how we use vernacular names. the name e.g. liverwort doesn't 
change because our ideas about its sistergroup relationships change. The 
Latin name however has changed for a few years ago from Anemone 
hepatica to Hepatica nobilis. The two names refers to the same group.  


>One thing I notice with uninominals is that there is no longer that old
>fallback, the 'sp' of the genus. Fred in the Heteropodarke paper had
>something which he didn't want to name formally, but was seemingly forced
>to anyway, there being infinite homonyms of 'sp' (not that Fred would use
>that anymore). Most benthic ecology papers I see have an awful lot of 'sp'
>names in them.

No, it's not the point. For one thing the informal name "Zmyrina" refers to a 
clade and not a species, so "sp" would have been rather confusing. And I 
didn't want to give it a formal name since I had only weak evidence for the 
delineation of the group, and thought that there was a great risk for future 
changes. Since it nevertheless was practical to talk about it I gave an 
informal name.  

>A minor thing - I am not of the view that italicising of binominals ever had
>any great significance. It's a bit of an anachronism really, or a habit as
>Fred calls it. I'm not sure why he extends it to all his names.

Italicising binomina (and generic names) I guess is used to make the 
names easily retrieved in text. I don't have any problem with that. But since 
I recognise only clades, and do not refer them to any ranks, it seemed 
logical to italicise all taxon names. But as, you say, it's no big deal.  

>> The issue is
>> really that names for taxa shouldn't change all the time.
>
>How true. But they will change under the uninominalists too, perhaps more
>so, as each presents a new classification on new characters, including
>molecular versus morphological, and invents new names for their groups.

I fail to see that. Why should anyone invent a new name for a group which
already has been named? And how could uninomina ever be the reason for
proliferation of new groups?

> The genus  is a very convenient way of talking about a member of  a set of
>  entities, and a binominal has a certain charm and power perhaps related
> to the fact that we all have one (although not all Reads or Peijels belong
> to the same 'clade' of humanity)!  I'm looking forward to reading the
> first  ecological paper written by a uninominalist to see how
> understandable the application of the system will be outside of  taxonomy
> and how the  terminology can be developed to cope. Needless to say I
> don't plan to  pioneer the field.   

Neither do I, considering my knowledge in ecology ;-) But between the 
lines I read (correctly?) that you anticipate huge problems. I don't / Fredrik  

__________________________________________________________
Fredrik Pleijel
Biologie des Invertébrés marins, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle
57, rue Cuvier
75231 Paris Cedex 05
tel: 33(0)1 40 79 31 12
fax: 33(0)1 40 79 31 09
__________________________________________________________


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