Bird names

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Tue Jun 8 18:45:57 EDT 1999

I'll respectfully disagree with Doug.  I having struggled with the 
generic concept longer ago than I care to remember, I think that 
defining generic relationships is part art, part illusion and part 
science---and how much of each varies with the particular taxon. 

Moreover, the strict cladists arguing for dichotomous branching at every 
level, would leave us with numerous levels of branching such that the 
similarity between two "species" within Genus A may be much greater than 
that between two "species" in genus B.  Moreover, the people who have to 
remember the names are not necessarily those who have to know or care 
about the relationships.  It is indeed nice to know the relationships 
and often they have some importance outside of the strict discipline of 
systematics----for example, it's nice to know which primates are more 
closely related to humans if you want to study them as models for 

For the most part, however, we have been talking about communicating 
among people with like interests----which are outside of strict 

I don't personally like the numbers, but I certainly don't expect to 
keep on top of the name changes----many of which swing back 
inexorably---to a prior name.  Yet journal editors have policies 
regarding nomenclature to which authors are expected to adhere, 

So, I suppose if we really knew once and for all which two species of 
anything were most closely related, then I wouldn't mind reflecting that 
in the generic name. 

Having been involved in a split at the family level (birds), I can only 
say that whatever problems exist at the generic level may be worse when 
it comes to deciding whether a group is a subfamily or a family. 

Mike Gochfeld

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