Geoff Read g.read at niwa.cri.nz
Fri Jun 30 01:23:19 EST 2000

> >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. [...]

> I believe polychaete and other taxonomy has  a lot to do with nature.

My intended point was that in my opinion large heaps of polychaete 
"species" are complete rubbish - worthless - obfuscating - a large waste of 
everybodies time - why on earth did they do that, there is no justification - 
well, you get the picture.  

> 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 in the literature occurs as:
> Nereis flexuosa
> Stephania flexuosa
> Ophiodromus flexuosus

In their eras all better identifiers, and information conveyers than the 
epithet alone which is insufficiently unique. In my opinion :-) 

> 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.  

But why? Why not something neutral and objective like "fine capillary 
group"? It looks like you're either staking a claim for the future or don't 
have a developed terminology.

> > 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? 

I didn't say either of those things. Uninominalists use cladograms and are 
inclined to name  nodes or apomorphies (at least the sole example I have 
so far seen does). I'm wondering why in the Heteropodarke paper is the 
Crassichaeta, apparently a necessary new name to encompass a mere 
three species which might equally have been simply called the enlarged 
anterior falciger group or the Heteromorpha-Lyonsi-Xiamenensis group. A 
proliferation of sorts, perhaps to make a point, I don't know. Two other 
groups of two each  went unnamed. 

Regardless of the philosophies behind them the incumbent binominals and 
the experimental uninominals are invented conventions to enable  us to 
communicate information. An invented set of rules, a language for 
taxonomy. They're artificial constructs, but if you don't follow the simplest 
rules of the ICZN you'd better have a good reason why not or it looks like 
ignorance. In the computer world languages come and go. In the 
taxonomic world we've only had one so far, and it is very detailed indeed in 
the circumstances it covers. The alternatives have a long way to go yet, 
and to me at the moment  a  uninominal alternative is not  sufficiently 
attractive or inherently superior, or more convenient, or without drawbacks, 
 to the essentials of the Linnaean system. These are genus species in a 
family (Yes, I know there's really a continuum), with the occasional 
introduction of new genera (or clade names) when utterly compelling for a 
large group of taxa. Let the cladograms roll out but don't get bogged in 
naming the (possibly shortlived) minutiae.   

  Geoff Read <g.read at niwa.cri.nz>

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