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Re: muddying the waters?? (!!)



Dr. Kinman--

I'll be the first to admit that the taxonomic waters are pretty muddy already 
these days, but I still don't think you're helping any.

OK, most workers would probably look at "Mammalea" and simply think you were a 
poor speller.  However, I think most workers today would look at a construction 
like "Rodentiformes", recognize that it means "things that look like rodents", 
and assume that you intended to name a new taxon: one including Rodentia and 
one or more other organisms.  The worker then simply gets annoyed when he or 
she finds out that by "Rodentiformes", you really just meant "Rodentia".

I would submit that adding "-formes", at least, does not qualify as an 
emendation, because you are actually adding a morpheme (unit of meaning).

And yes, some standardization schemes have worked, but it is important to note 
that in those cases, the standardized names were wholly new, and thus carried 
no preconceived notions of what taxa they described.

When plant workers created a standardized name for the Leguminosae (bean 
family), they didn't cobble together something like "Leguminosaceae"; they 
picked a representative genus (_Faba_) and created a new family name, analogous 
to other plant families: Fabaceae.

The standardized bird and fish ordinal names were formed similarly, though I 
must confess I am unaware of what names were used previously for these groups.

So if you want to standardize mammalian and "reptilian" orders, I would 
recommend doing the same: Muriformes, Elephantiformes, Apatosauriformes, etc.  
While it is fairly obvious in a general way what a "muriform" is (something 
"shaped like a mouse"), there is no strict pre-existing definition for 
Muriformes, and I would think this would make people more likely to accept the 
term.

Standardization is a noble goal, as are clarity and preservation of established 
nomenclature; but if you ask me, names like "Thecodontiformes" and 
"Saurischiformes" fail on all three counts.

Nick P.