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Re: Yay! Cladobabble! :-)

Nick Pharris wrote:
> Quoting "Jaime A. Headden" <qilongia@yahoo.com>:
> > Nick Pharris (npharris@umich.edu) wrote:
> >
> > <Sure you can tell what a genus is.  It's the named clade immediately
> > dominating one or more species.>
> >
> >   Not exacrtly, that can also be superspecies and subgenus.
> OK, so I was playing a little fast and loose.  Actually, I was suggesting that
> we could just scrap superspecies and subgenera and just define "genus" as the
> clade immediately dominating the species (with the proviso that every species
> has to have one).  That way, we get to keep our naming system intact and still
> be intellectually honest.  If we find there are robust clades within a "genus"
> (what might today be called subgenera), we can always just split them off into
> several genera.  No big whoop.
> Look, we all know that the basic unit in the tree of life is the individual
> (or maybe if you really stretch it, the population or the species).  But for
> better or worse, the basic unit of taxonomic nomenclature is the genus.  All
> those -idaes, -omorphas, -iformeses, and -inis are based on genus names, not
> species, and not specimen numbers.
> Nick Pharris
> Department of Linguistics
> University of Michigan

I think of it in this way - species are real biological entities (albeit
sometimes with fuzzy definitions).  Higher taxa, eg genera
are labels for real historical events, branching events of
cladogenesis.  Therefore Home sapiens and H. neanderthalensis are real
biological entities.  The genus Homo is not a biological entity, but it
is a real historical event (when the common ancestor of all Homo spp.
split  from Australopithecus.  Genera are as real as the 1st World War
or the Declaration of Independence.  They are not therefore arbitrary
nor purely subjective, which is consistent with their taxonomic utility.

Sorry about the example, but I can't think of a credible
ancestor/descendent pairing of dinosaurs.

Tony Canning