Friday, July 25, 2008

Wolsan 2007

Wolsan, M. 2007. Naming species in phylogenetic nomenclature. Syst. Biol. 56(6): 1011-1021.

This paper opened my eyes a bit more as to the nitty gritty happenings in the world of the Phylocode and how they are trying to govern the naming of species. I was actually quite shocked at the amount of different proposals (20 different ways to name a species!).

species = an individuated segment of a metapopulation-level lineage
clade = a complete system of ancestry and descent, consisting of an ancestor and all its descendants

-species and clades are individuals that exist independently of human perception

The paper lists problems with Linnean binomen:

1. every change in generic assignment of a species necessitates changes in the name of that species (causing instability)
2. there can be people who disagree with the generic placement of species therefore some species have multiple names in use
3. unable to accommodate lack of knowledge about the genus-level relationships (i.e. someone has to assign a species to a genus even if they don't know what genus to put it in).

The paper lists desirable features of species names:

1. uniqueness
2. stability
3. distinguishability from clade names
-yes, I agree with this, but I don't think that every clade needs a name!
4. consistency of form among species names
-I think this is a good idea, but enforcing it is kind of picky.
5. consistency of form with the Linnaean Binomen
6. consistency of species names between PN and TN
7. ease of pronunciation, brevity, and simplicity of form
-same comment for number 4.
8. no need for conversion

It is nice to see that people are thinking about this a lot. Because if people do start moving towards the Phylocode, it does need to be well thought out. I don't think that will happen anytime soon, but it could in my lifetime and as someone who will be using the system, I hope the people who are creating it are doing a good job. I'm not sure if I want to be involved in creating the system, it seems a little too nit picky for me, but I definitely want to be able to give my input and I want any change to be a benefit for the user.

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