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Re: The Papers That Ate Cincinnati

T. Michael Keesey writes:
 > > This is one of those kinds of papers that I'll probably have to
 > > read a few times to get the overall gist of -- the discussion
 > > behind various phylogenetic nomenclatures is, for whatever
 > > reason, one of those things that doesn't go into my skull easily
 > > -- but it lays out some very good guidelines, at least by my
 > > reading.  How (or if) they'll ever be implemented, though,
 > > remains to be seen, especially for various really contentious
 > > definitions (e.g., Aves vs. Avialae, Ornithuromorpha vs.
 > > Euornithes) -- after all, it's _people_ dealing with all this
 > > rather than strictly logic-based machines (I wonder how the Borg
 > > would handle phylogenetic nomenclature...), and emotions have
 > > clearly infected some of these debates.
 > I've often thought that implementing the PhyloCode would be a lot
 > easier if it simply used new names and didn't convert any
 > traditional ones. (But nothing worth it is ever easy, and a
 > PhyloCode without converted traditional names is not worth it.)

Indeed.  It would be easier still not to implement the PhyloCode at
all, but that wouldn't get us anywhere :-)

 > > One aspect the paper doesn't really cover (though it covers a LOT
 > > in its brief 6 pages!), at least not explicitly, is _commonness_
 > > of usage as a criterion, and in particular how a term is most
 > > commonly perceived/implemented, which I think is an exceedingly
 > > important, if not overarching, component of naming (e.g., Aves
 > > has included _Archaeopteryx_ for over 100 years, and even the
 > > general public, when they know of _Archaeopteryx_ at all,
 > > understands that it is a "bird" -- the paper does discuss
 > > vernacular terms), which even though it was not originally
 > > constructed to include it (_Archaeopteryx_ being unknown to
 > > Linnaeus), to me automatically overrides Avialae and Aves sensu
 > > Gauthier;
 > We've had a long discussion on this topic here:
 > http://www.phylonames.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19

And of course Gauthier and de Queiroz discussed this at great length a
few years ago:

        Gauthier, J. A., and de Queiroz, K. (2001). Feathered
        dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs, crown dinosaurs, and the name
        "Aves". In "New Perspectives on the Origin and Early Evolution
        of Birds: Proceedings of the International Symposium in Honor
        of John H. Ostrom" (J. A. Gauthier and L. F. Gall, Eds.)
        pp. 7-41.  Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University,
        New Haven, Connecticut.

For whatever very little it might be worth, my own position is that
the "traditional" understanding of birds is that _Archaeopteryx_ is
the most primitive animal that is defined to be a bird; and so the
node-based definition of Chiappe best captures this notion, so that
Aves = (_Archaeopteryx_ + modern birds).  But I know that lots of
people have other ideas, and I deliberately didn't adopt a position on
that question in the paper because I didn't want to get bogged down
in what is from my perspective a side-issue.  (After all,
_Archaeopteryx_ weighed WAAAY less than ten tons.)

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike@indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  If two decades of commercial programming have taught me anything,
         it's NEVER to trust dual CPUs, "uninterruptible" power supplies
         or RAID disks.