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Should paleontologists use “phylogenetic” nomenclature?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2015

Gareth J. Dyke
Affiliation:
Division of Vertebrate Zoology (Ornithology), American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, <gdyke@amnh.org>
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Extract

Thanks to the Linnaean system of Biological Nomenclature systematics these days is an ordered discipline. Debates over specifics still abound, but there is little argument that taxonomy should reflect the current state of our phylogenetic knowledge. However, recent proposals to replace the historically developed and universally utilized Linnaean system of Biological Nomenclature with an alternative “phylogenetic” system of nomenclature (PN; formulated as the draft PhyloCode [http://www.ohiou.edu/phylocode]; e.g., Cantino and de Queiroz, 2000; see Nixon and Carpenter, 2000 for exhaustive citations) are flawed because they are founded on the misconception that Linnaean classification cannot (and therefore currently does not) accurately represent phylogeny. This is not the case—the ranked Linnaean system is a hierarchy, but then again, so is a cladogram and hence the former can mirror the latter. Although implementation of the proposed PhyloCode would result in huge implications within biological systematics in general (Nixon and Carpenter, 2000; Forey, 2001; Schuh, submitted), some workers (e.g., Brochu and Sumrail, 2001) have argued that proposals to implement this new system of “phylogenetic” nomenclature are a “good thing” for paleontology in particular. Since viewpoints contrary to the PhyloCode have already been aired elsewhere (e.g., Dominguez and Wheeler, 1997; Moore, 1998; Benton, 2000; Nixon and Carpenter, 2000; Forey, 2001), my aim here is to highlight a few areas of PN that make it an especially problematic proposal for paleontologists.

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View from the Field
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Copyright © The Paleontological Society 

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