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Re: The Papers That Ate Cincinnati

Quoting "T. Michael Keesey" <keesey@gmail.com>:

What would be the point of dreaming up new names for Mammalia,
Sauropoda, Passeriformes, etc. when we already have perfectly good
names in existence? If the PhyloCode avoided name conversion, anyone
using it would have to learn an entirely new vocabulary.

The problem for etymologizers like myself is that we experience cognitive dissonance when the coverage of an apomorphy-based name like Mammalia doesn't match up with the distribution of the apomorphy in question (assuming, of course, that the apomorphy arose only once).

Eponymous names like Passeriformes are fine, cosidering the meaning of such a name is something like 'things that are more like sparrows than they are like any other ordinal-level namesake'. Maybe we could restrict the use of apomorphy-based names to apomorphy-based clades, and use all eponymous names for node-and stem-based clades?

Having said that, I do recognize that some apomorphy-based names would make horrible apomorphy-based clades. Mammalia itself would a prime example, since it would suffer both from definitional problems (how much fat does a sweat gland have to secrete before we consider it a milk gland?) and from practical ones (even if we had a satisfactory definition of a milk gland, the probability that we will ever know enough about the soft-tissue anatomy of the creatures involved to say when it arose is essentially zero).

Nick Pharris
Department of Linguistics
University of Michigan

"Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
    --Edwin H. Land