Am I a Cladist?

James McInerney jamm at
Wed Feb 3 13:31:57 EST 1999

Joe Felsenstein wrote:
> A cladist could be:
>    1. A person who wants to make classifications, ones that contain only
>       monophyletic (if you're Mayr and Ashlock "holophyletic") groups.

I think this is a taxonomic question and I'm less interested in taxonomy
that in phylogeny.  Does this mean that I'm not a cladist.  A
????phyletic group is something that has a name, like 'fish' or
'lithistid' or something like that.  I'm almost willing to forego naming
names, I would even be in favour of an indexing system, with clades
called 1.1, 1.2, 1.2.1, etc...  Then we would never have a debate about
mono- para- or polyphyletic groups

I'm sure I'm alone on this one.

By the way, I'm quite happy with paraphyletic groups, but a little
uncomfortable with polyphyletic groups.

>    2. A person who makes groups by synapomorphies only.

O.K.  Don't do this either.

>    3. A person who makes phylogenies using only parsimony.

Nope, not one of these.

>    4. A person who is interested in making phylogenies.

Aha, this is me, this is me.

>    5. A person who is a fully paid-up member of the Willi Hennig Society
>       and accepts most of what is said from its podiums.

Quite unlikely to happen.  I'm rather taken aback by peoples negative
views on the Willi society.

>       Usually used with the adjective "raving".  The second part of the
>       definition excludes Norman Platnick and Gareth Nelson, who have lately
>       been cast into the outer darkness.

Can you be cast into the outside?  Sorry, just being pedantic, or should
I say pedantique?  Ooops, maybe I am a cladist after all?!?!?

>    6. A person in systematics or molecular evolution who uses methods
>       newer than the 1954 textbook I used in college.
>       This is the popular science press definition.  It goes along with
>       statements that there is some new, mysterious, and powerful method
>       called "cladistics" that allows us to discern the true tree.

I can tell you are being sarcastic here. Whyever for?

So, Am I a cladist?  I think the answer is yes! (apologies for the
superflous exclamation mark).  I want to uncover clades of organisms
that are each others closest relatives.  It is probably not a bad thing
to recapture the name.  It might be sensible, though to characterise the
type of cladist that I have become (you know how you have pattern
cladists, transformed cladists, blah, blah, blah), well I think I am a
phylogeneto-non-taxonomo-partitionistic cladist of the
distanco-likelihood school, or a 'pntp cladist dls'.  Not very
parsimonious is it?


James O. McInerney,
Dept. of Zoology,
The Natural History Museum,
Cromwell road,
London SW7 5BD,
Phone +44 171 938 9163

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