Bird names (and other names too!)

Doug Yanega dyanega at
Wed Jun 9 14:49:24 EDT 1999

Kevin Caley wrote:

>(PS isn't it
>'P. atricapillus', Doug?).

Could well be, I'm not a birder - virtually all the species epithets I have
memorized are insects, and we're talking thousands (ain't got much room for
more). I'd never be able to remember that many 8-digit numbers. ;-)

Michael Gochfeld wrote:

>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.

Genera have *always* been that The bee genus Perdita has over 800
species in it, but it's monophyletic so it's a perfectly *good* genus. The
subgenera that Timberlake named are clearly artificial (nothing more than
glorified species-groups, really), so splitting that genus up would be a
BAD thing. Other bee genera have one, two, three species in them, and
that's not a cladist has ever proposed that genera have to all
be the same size, just that they should be monophyletic.

>I don't know whether molecular genetics will revolutionize the field by
>providing the final definitive evidence on genetic distance between
>taxa----but I'll bet that if we had "true" genetic distances, we'd still
>find it chaotic and confusing. We'd find a
>n infinite spectrum of distances that we would be trying to shoe-horn into
>our concepts of species, genera, families, etc, by inserting subs, infras,
>supers, etc---until we were dizzy.
>Nomenclature cannot keep up with systematic knowledge.

"Distance" is irrelevant to both cladistics AND nomenclature. Keeping up is
pretty much dependent only on how good a job folks did before molecular
techniques came along. If every named genus proved to be monophyletic, for
example, the nomenclature wouldn't have to change at all.


Doug Yanega       Dept. of Entomology           Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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