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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Re: BRYONET: local endemics


Hi Brent,

Thanks for the response. I take your point that we do not need
molecular data to construct phylogenies, and I agree that phylogenies
are useful and interesting. We are still not going to have detailed
additional phylogenetic information of any kind for lots of organisms
on this planet any time soon.

But one (among several) reasons that you are encountering what you
see as unwarranted resistance to some of your ideas is that you are
proposing changing a system that basically works without explaining
properly (a) what you want to put in its place and (b) why you want
to change the naming system.

To take (b) first, it seems that both your system or the current
system are hierarchical. What you seem to dislike is giving
hard-and-fast names to the levels of hierarchy - "genus", "family",
and the like. But even in your system, you will need names like
"first-order clade" "higher clade" etc, to communicate about them so
what is really fundamentally different? From talking to Bruce, it
seems that you like a rank-free system because it helps avoid the
paradoxes that arise in examples like the Hawaiian Silverswords
versus Madia when one adheres to strict monophyly without regard to
the "branch-lengths" (i.e. the fact that Silverwords changed a whole
lot more than Californian Madias in the same time-interval). Is this
true? My own preference would be to tweak the existing system to
take care of this problem, which I pointed out myself on this thread,
rather than have a major revolution in our whole way of naming things
just because of this. Lets akoow genera to be nested in some cases,
that's a simple solution that would work.

Concerning (a), i.e., how do you really want names to work? - can
we take a specific example, say the thing that's currently called
Mimulus breweri. If I want to tell a colleague his photo of "Mimulus
breweri" looks more like Mimuls bigelowii to me, do I simply write
"breweri (Mimulus)"? - I have no intellectual problem with that, - to
me its an essentially trivial intellectually which part of the name
comes first - but it raises all kinds of problems with indexing etc
to put the breweri part first and I don't see what it achieves.
Similarly, making the name uninomial by doing away with the space
between words - (either Brewerimimulus or Mimulusbreweri) seems to me
to just sacrifice some practicality without changing anything
fundamental. How would you REALLY name entities in the new Jepson
Manual if it was entirely up to you? I just don't get it as far as
practical nomenclature is concerned, please explain.

Of course, if new data suggested that Miulus brewri was really two
"clades" or was part of another clade, we should make the appropriate
name changes. That exactly what the authors are doing whenever
warranted- but there are plenty of ways to do that with our existing
versatile naming system.

Best wishes,


Research Associate,
University and Jepson Herbaria,
University of California,
Berekeley, CA.
510 527 7855

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