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Re: Adios, "Brachiosaurus" brancai

2009/9/15 John Scanlon <riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au>:
> Mike Taylor wrote:
>> I thought we all agreed that uninomials are better than binomials because
> it's dumb to encode your phylogenetic hypothesis as part of the name.
> That was meant to be a joke, right? I think you are unlikely to get such
> agreement from anyone who works on extant organisms, fossil members of
> extant groups (e.g. mammals, birds, squamates, crocodylians, turtles) or
> comparatively well-sampled extinct groups like ceratopsians (would you erect
> a new genus for every species of Psittacosaurus?).

Maybe I've not been clear about this: I think the world would be a
better place if the binomial had never been invented and every species
had instead been given a unique uninomial; and I like the fact that
this is close to true in the case of dinosaurs.  But I am NOT
proposing that we should try to shift the world into this alternative
model.  It's obvious that pain of nomenclatural upheaval would
completely swamp the gain of the simpler system we ended up with.
We're stuck with binomials for millions of species, and I don'ty plan
to do away with them -- I just wish they'd never existed :-)

> Why NOT encode a phylogenetic hypothesis as part of the name, if the
> hypothesis is supported at all and the binomial system allows it?

For the same reason we don't encode palaeobiological hypotheses as
part of the name, or mass estimates, or anything else.  Names are for
naming: the name of a thing need only be unique and stable.
Everything else is subject to change, especially with dinosaurs.  I
don’t want Giraffatitan to change its name from Giraffatitan 30 tonnes
to Giraffatitan 25 tonnes when its mass is recalculated to take
pneumaticity into account when estimating mass — so why would I want
it to change to Euhelopus brancai when its position in the phylogeny
is recalculated? Names are for naming.

(Thanks, Tim, for replying to the second half of this message.)