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Schroedinger's Genera (Was: Some silly questions)



David Marjanovic writes:
 > - Genera don't exist. For the purposes of nomenclature, we have to
 > pretend they exist (as long as the PhyloCode isn't implemented
 > yet), but they still don't exist.

I completely agree.

Until the time came when I had to name a new taxon.  Then I suddenly
realised that genera _do_ exist after all.

Once I'd submitted the manuscript, though, I realised that I was right
in the first place, and they do not exist after all.  Until next time.

Problem is, principles and pragmatics collide with a resounding thud
here.  

It's occurred to me in the past that when naming something it would be
cool just to say "Awesomesaurus new taxon" without commenting at all
on whether it's a genus, species, clade, whatever.  The taxon would
just be the type specimen plus a cloud of "sufficiently similar"
things close to it.  Then I realised that that's exactly what a genus
actually is (for fossils anyway).

There are AMNH papers that name new taxa and just say "tax. nov."; the
problem is that they still end up defining a binomial so that their
names can be recognised by the ICZN, so in the end that have still
defined a genus (and type species).

The bottom line is that, for Mesozoic dinosaurs at least, the "genus"
is the non-clade uninomial taxon we're all wanting.  The type-species
name is just a bit of obligatory decoration.

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike@indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "Thou shalt run `lint' frequently and study its pronouncements
         with care, for verily its perception and judgement oft exceed
         thine" -- Henry Spencer's 1st Commandment for C Programmers.