Applied Cladistics

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Wed Jun 27 06:58:22 EDT 2001

The late Donn Rosen, with whom I took my fish biology course at the 
American Museum of Natural History, became a cladist late in life. As 
with many converts he became extremely intense, such that the course in 
fish biology became a course in cladism. 

He pointed out that (as Patrick did) that birds are part of the fish 
clade, i.e. that birds are fish. This didn't sound revolutionary, but 
also didn't sound very useful.  I asked whether I should submit my next 
paper on bird behavior to Copeia or to the Journal of Fish something. 

He wasn't amused. I concluded that cladism is a worthwhile exercise in 
critically examining relationships and lineages, but has no more "truth" 
to it than other approaches to systematics. 

It was a great privilege in the early 1970's to attend the systematic 
discussion group where the cladists and phylogeneticists went at each 
other hammer and tongs. But usually shedding more heat than light. I 
noted that the organisms did not seem to have any say in how their 
relationships were interpreted. 

Mike Gochfeld

Mike Gochfeld


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