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Re: Dinosaur FAQ #9
I wish you luck on writing up this one. But here are a few random
thoughts on the subject.
I would add one more term "nomenclature", because it is so fundamental
to how we communicate our classifications to one another.
And classification has two different (but related) meanings: (1) the
act or process of classifying; and (2) the result of that process (a
I'm not sure how to define phylogeny. Sort of an evolutionary history
that attempts to show how the variety of groups evolved and are related to
one another. More importantly, phylogeny is what sets most biological
classications apart from phenetic classifications (although biologists
sometimes use phenetic classifications as well).
Taxonomy is sort of a combination of nomenclature, classification, and
phylogeny all rolled together. And systematics is an even broader term, so
broad that it would very difficult to come up with one definition that all
biologists would agree with.
And cladistics to me has two distinct aspects or components: (1)
cladistic analysis, which has revolutionized biological systematics; and (2)
cladistic (a.k.a. "phylogenetic") taxonomy. I embrace the latter only to
the extent that it is useful, but in it strictest form (the elimination of
all paraphyletic groups), it cannot produce classifications that are (in the
long run) stable, useful, or natural. This is because strictly phylogenetic
taxonomy attempts to only reflect phylogeny, and strips classifications of
an important phenetic component (often referred to as divergence). And a
classification with only the phylogenetic component cannot be fully natural,
useful, or stable. (I think I hear some booes and hisses, so will stop
From: Mike Taylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Dinosaur FAQ #9
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2001 16:26:28 +0000
Thanks to those who have contributed to the overview of dinosaur
classification, especially after my heartfelt plea for more criticism!
Now it's time for FAQ #9, which is:
What's the difference between classification, phylogeny,
systematics and cladistics?
I've not written anything on this subject (because I have only the
fuzziest idea what the answer is), so please send any contributions
directly to me at <email@example.com>
Thanks in advance,
(Administrative note: since the egroups service which hosted the
DinoFAQ mailing list has been taken over by Yahoo!, the terms of
service have changed in rather a sinister way that implies that
everything routed through there becomes Yahoo!'s property. Until
that's straightened out, I don't want to use that list, hence my
request that replies come direct to me this time.)
/o ) \/ Mike Taylor -- <firstname.lastname@example.org> -- http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/
)_v__/\ "I like your, 'ow you say, imperturbable perspicacity" --
Steven Sondheim, "Come Play Wiz Me"
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