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Re: ADV: Re: Classification: A Definition



On Tue, May 22, 2007 at 04:54:09PM +0100, Mike Taylor scripsit:
> Graydon writes:
>  > > You _could_ argue that TOKOTs should be abolished completely and
>  > > all biology done in terms of specimens and clades only.  But that
>  > > is never going to happen and to be honest I wouldn't want it to.
>  > > I like the convenient of TOKOTs.  I prefer the name
>  > > "Brachiosaurus" to the specimen number FMNH P 25017.
>  > 
>  > How would defining "Brachiosaurus" *as* "FMNH P 25017" cause
>  > difficulty or information loss?
> 
> Woah!  Dude!  Radical!
> 
> I think I have to go and lie down.  I am not ready for this :-)

Meaning you've proposed precisely this in a paper I haven't seen? :)

>  > That is pretty much the situation we've got with fossils, isn't it?
>  > No population, no genes, no real prospect of being able to define
>  > things in terms of that-which-is-being-selected-upon, so what is
>  > there as facts are the specimens.
>  > 
>  > Formalizing the working nickname as the human-usage name, which is
>  > in turn what the actual name is called, doesn't strike me as a bad
>  > thing.
> 
> I see where you're coming from, but do you really want to take away
> the ability of field-workers in Utah to say "we've found a new
> Brachiosaurus specimen"?

Well, in practise, isn't what they're really saying much closer to
"we've found something, and based on the parts of it that are sticking
out of the rocks and various not-too-severely-weathered indicators and
the general cut of its jib, we think it's least dissimilar to
Brachiosaurus"?

If we're after mathematically supported phylogentic hypotheses by
whatever means, the actual cladistic analysis has to work from specific
specimens.  So we might as well label the specific specimens, or
specimen groups.

A specimen group would presumably be all those specimens where "this
thing doesn't code differently (enough) from that thing with a name"; so
if your hypothetical Utah field-workers get their specimen out of the
ground, prepared, and coded, they have a testable affinity to
Brachiosaurus, provided there is some sort of consensus about "doesn't
code differently enough".

And you must admit achieving that consensus would provide *years* of
entertainment for all concerned, especially as the named specimen groups
hit fifteen or fifty individual specimens and some enterprising soul
took more capable mathematics and measuring devices to the group to see
how well it held up.

-- Graydon