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RE: Sauropodz r kewl WAS silly ramble



Mike Taylor wrote:

<On this thread, my point is that names are names and not taxonomies, so it's 
stupid to encode one specific taxonomy, based on one specific phylogenetic 
hypothesis, in names. For this reason and for no other, it is sensible to use 
uninomials rather than binomials.>

  No argument there.

<I don't understand why this is controversial, at least on this list. If 
Giraffatitan turns out to be a titanosaur rather than a brachiosaurid, its name 
won't change -- nor it should. But if Camarasaurus lentus turns out to be a 
brachiosaurid the its NAME will change. That is just stupid.>

  This is where an argument exists. This isn't _just_ this list. The issue is 
rampant elsewhere, and I am not the first person to make this claim. I've 
pointed this out to you and others here and elsewhere before. Not that long 
ago, I mentioned *Ambondro mahabo* and the arguments that were _intrinsic_ to 
its designation as a non-genus/species uninomial. You, however seeming to 
prefer uninomials, did not use such an argument when you "raised" 
*Giraffatitan* from a "subgenus" to a "genus," nor did Paul when he coined the 
name. Instead, you used _morphological variance_ as your criterion for arguing 
that *altithorax* and *brancai* shouldn't be in the same "genus." This is an 
argument that fits right into what genus the "Megalodon" shark falls into, and 
is a common trait in paleontological taxonomy. Seriously, go look up taxonomy 
in *Dicynodon* and *Lystrosaurus* and a host of other fun dicynodonts: 
_morphologic_ variance is SECONDARY to _stratigraphic_ and _temporal_ variance, 
with a smattering of _ontogenetic_ thrown in.

  I know you read my blog, Mike, and if I write something so egregious to set 
one's ear on end, I encourage anyone here, David and you included, to comment 
there. You may even do so anonymously. I even suggested to Darren Naish and his 
coauther Valentin Fischer that their attempt at *Ophthalmosauridae* taxonomy 
could be _solved_ by designating every single species to its own "genus-species 
couplet" or similar uninomial, that the use of *Baptanodon* for what is 
currently *Ophthalmosaurus natans* is almost assured by their phylogeny and 
argument of paraphyly, and so forth.

  The fact of the argument is is that YOU did not quantify the reasoning that 
_morphological variance_ matters to nomenclature, yet simply pointed out that 
others have argued it is relevant. Moreover, you put nomenclature where science 
has yet to stand firm, much less step. There was perfectly good terminology 
separating the two forms you described, *altithorax* and *brancai*, yet did not 
regard these names to be useful for your purposes, and this is where the 
"genus" was employed. NOT the uninomial. HAD you made the uninomial argument, 
and reflected on its case throughout the tree you presented -- and likely 
applied this to those taxa -- you might have won over a good deal of support, 
but instead you used flimsy reasoning and a tree that did not support your 
preclusion to put *Giraffatitan* at genus rank to include *brancai*. I'm not 
sure how more explicit I can be in pointing out how specious this is.

  If you follow the uninomial "slippery slope," you will end up re-designating 
every single species name not currently a type species of a "genus" as a unique 
uninomial. This will require extensive taxonomy. I, oddly enough, am in favor 
of this idea as it will help eliminate the subjective idea that all species can 
be grade don importance or relevance because some have their own "genus" while 
some do not. Why we have a *Turiasauria* and a *Saltasaurinae* and not just 
*Turiasaurus* sp.a, b, c, or *Saltasaurus* sp.a, b, c.

  The alternative, and my preferred solution, is the loss of the ridiculous 
paleontological "species" and use instead of the "genus" form, a reflection 
instead on morphological variance. It would be JUST *species A*, JUST *species 
B*. These would merely operate as morphological species, which are then 
included in containing clades. All clade names would be capitalized, and only 
used when containing at least two other taxa -- anything else would be 
redundant, and therefore useless.

<Elsewhere, in a completely different context, I argued that *given we already 
use genus+species names in sauropd taxonomy* it's much more consistent in those 
terms that two very different taxa not be forced by history to share a name 
when there is NO bone that is the same between the two of them. It's going to 
happen anyway, the moment someone publishes a phylogenetic analysis that has 
more then two brachiosaurs in it: you should trust me on this.>

  But, they don't share a name. They are *altithorax* Riggs, 1903 and *brancai* 
Janensch, 1914. I'm not sure how hard this is to understand.

Cheers,

  Jaime A. Headden
  The Bite Stuff (site v2)
  http://qilong.wordpress.com/

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)


"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 
Backs)


----------------------------------------
> From: mike@indexdata.com
> Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2012 11:38:16 +0100
> Subject: Re: Sauropodz r kewl WAS silly ramble
> To: qi_leong@hotmail.com
> CC: david.marjanovic@gmx.at; Dinosaur.Mailing.List@listproc.usc.edu
>
> You're conflating two completely separate nomenclatural issues here.
>
> On this thread, my point is that names are names and not taxonomies,
> so it's stupid to encode one specific taxonomy, based on one specific
> phylogenetic hypothesis, in names. For this reason and for no other,
> it is sensible to use uninomials rather than binomials.
>
> I don't understand why this is controversial, at least on this list.
> If Giraffatitan turns out to be a titanosaur rather than a
> brachiosaurid, its name won't change -- nor it should. But if
> Camarasaurus lentus turns out to be a brachiosaurid the its NAME will
> change. That is just stupid.
>
> OK. That's the point I am making on this thread.
>
> Elsewhere, in a completely different context, I argued that *given we
> already use genus+species names in sauropd taxonomy* it's much more
> consistent in those terms that two very different taxa not be forced
> by history to share a name when there is NO bone that is the same
> between the two of them. It's going to happen anyway, the moment
> someone publishes a phylogenetic analysis that has more then two
> brachiosaurs in it: you should trust me on this.
>
> -- Mike.
>
>
>
> On 18 April 2012 11:18, Jaime Headden <qi_leong@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > David Marjanovic wrote:
> >
> > <He's using a genus _name_ as a _clade name_. I really can't see why he 
> > shouldn't.>
> >
> >   He's using the concept of the rank, as is present in his paper and in his 
> > SV-POW! posts on the paper. Just for example, there's this from pg. 798 in 
> > Taylor, 2009:
> >
> >   "Although McIntosh (1990b:65) felt that “the coracoid, femur, and sacrum 
> > of the two species are in complete accord,” differences exist in both 
> > coracoid and femur, as well as the humerus, ilium, caudals, and most 
> > significantly the dorsal vertebrae. Since poor preservation prevents 
> > detailed comparison of the sacra, and lack of information about ribs makes 
> > it impossible to evaluate the significance of observed differences, these 
> > elements are therefore uninformative for comparative purposes. All elements 
> > sufficiently well preserved in both species, then, exhibit distinct 
> > differences, and generic separation is warranted since the two species are 
> > more different from each other than, for example, Diplodocus and Barosaurus 
> > Marsh, 1890. Accordingly, the name Giraffatitan will be used in the 
> > remainder of this paper."
> >
> >   Aside from extensive use of the term "genus" in the paper, derivatives of 
> > that noun, and its use on the website, Taylor has come down on the side of 
> > preferring uninomials, and I appreciate his condor on this. However, this 
> > doesn't condone the extensive use of the term regardless of its loaded lack 
> > of value. Moreover, regardless of preferring uninomials, Mike consistently 
> > uses the "praenomens" over any combination of it and the species epithet in 
> > the paper (which rather enforces the subjective value the "genus" places in 
> > our language and nomenclature).
> >
> >   I agree with Mike that the specific case of *Giraffatitan brancai* makes 
> > sense -- if it weren't predicated on the unquantified issue of how much 
> > variation equals generic separation (the secondary premise of the paper). 
> > Attempting to qualify "genera" on the basis of an unquantified variable, 
> > even more interesting given the current trend of SV-POW! posts referring to 
> > Woodruff and Fowler's 2012 paper on subjective ontogeny in diplodocoid 
> > sauropods.
> >
> > <Please explain what you mean by "concordant value" and "intrinsic value".>
> >
> >   I may need to use "relative value" instead, but...
> >   Specimen MPC-D 100/978 is _intrinsic_ to the "nature" of *Citipati 
> > osmolskae*, as it represents the type specimen. Specimen MPC-D 100/979 is 
> > _concordant_ with the nature of *Citipati osmolskae*, as it represents a 
> > specimen that is morphologically similar or nearly identical with the 
> > postcrania of MPC-D 100/978. In this way, concordant means "aligns with," 
> > "agrees with," but is far more specific than a generalization.
> >
> >   In use: Ranks are concordant to taxa in particular positions on a 
> > phylogram, but they are not intrinsic to the position of said taxa on the 
> > cladogram. (Despite this, position of taxa move and may or may not take 
> > their "ranks" with them.)
> >
> > <Given the high probability that *Brachiosaurus* and *Giraffatitan* are not 
> > sister-groups, it was a good move to separate them nomenclaturally.>
> >
> >   What probability? One analysis, so far, was inconclusive on this regard 
> > (Taylor's). It made the presumption that morphologic variability = generic 
> > separation, but did not prove this case. It can't be proven on such a 
> > ground, simply because the existence of the "genus" is both subjective and 
> > non-intrinsic to biology. But notice that the sentence YOU WROTE alludes to 
> > the idea that what you are referring to is either
> >   1) a uninomial (which might exclude use of the "species," as if it didn't 
> > matter or exist) or
> >   2) the very convention my post referred to, where "genus" is given 
> > primacy as the currency of taxonomy, ignoring that it does not actually 
> > represent anything to do with "species" in the system of note.
> >   If anything, the system is actually a mishmash of Phylogenetic 
> > Nomenclature, the ICZN, and some unholy offspring bred back to the original 
> > (ignoring the existence of "species").
> >
> >   You see, the names are already separated nomenclaturally: *brancai* and 
> > *altithorax* are substantially different from one another. Separating them 
> > further requires you to continue to presume that *Giraffatitan* and 
> > *Brachiosaurus* are different from their contained names, and that is what 
> > I've been getting at.
> >
> >   Once again, this is not meant to hash on Mike. He and I have had our back 
> > and forth, and I'd like to work on rebuilding some sort of positive 
> > relationship without giving up the integrity of my premise, that the use of 
> > ranks is unscientific, and hypocritical of authors to claim otherwise when 
> > validating their nomenclatural changes.
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> >  Jaime A. Headden
> >  The Bite Stuff (site v2)
> >  http://qilong.wordpress.com/
> >
> > "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
> >
> >
> > "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
> > different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
> > has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
> > his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 
> > Backs)
> >
> >
> > ----------------------------------------
> >> Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2012 14:48:18 +0200
> >> From: david.marjanovic@gmx.at
> >> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> >> Subject: Re: Sauropodz r kewl WAS silly ramble
> >>
> >> Am 17.04.2012 14:09, schrieb Jaime Headden:
> >>
> >> > It was not my intention to be hostile, so the tone of the response I
> >> > received from Mike seems particularly odd.
> >>
> >> But apparently it wasn't sent to the list (I haven't received it), so
> >> there's probably no point in discussing it here...
> >>
> >> > Consider that the commentary of this entire thread has been on the
> >> > efficacy of certain names, especially referring to *Brachiosaurus* as
> >> > an equivalence to *Brachiosaurus altithorax*, which in zoological
> >> > terms would be just *B. altithorax* for the most part.
> >>
> >> (Point taken, but even neontologists don't abbreviate genus names before
> >> they've spelled them out once.)
> >>
> >> > [...] *Brachiosaurus*, being capitalized, it the primary element of
> >> > the name, a fault I'd rather lay at the feet of Linnaeus than anyone
> >> > else, but a typical effect in the classical language he was using.
> >>
> >> It's not simply a side effect of the default word order of Latin;
> >> Linnaeus deliberately employed it because of his philosophy. To him, the
> >> genus really was the basic _general_ unit, and the species was
> >> _specific_. It was an additional subdivision diagnosed by "less
> >> important", less "general", more "specific" characters. The modern
> >> emphasis on species as units of biodiversity and genera as a
> >> biologically meaningless rank is much younger; Linnaeus thought that
> >> genera were real.
> >>
> >> > and even the ICZN doesn't tolerate or regard anything higher than
> >> > "family-level" ranks.
> >>
> >> Not true. Most rules (such as priority) don't extend above the family
> >> group of ranks, but the use of higher ranks is not at all discouraged.
> >>
> >> > Growing is the movement to abandon ranks, and their concordant
> >> > problems. I've written on this on my blog ad nauseam, and of course
> >> > many of the offenders have defended their choices, but all of them
> >> > have and will continue to use "genus" without any care for its lack
> >> > of scientific value. When Mike argues about what I'm talking about,
> >> > his very message is ripe with the problem I speak of, his continuing
> >> > demonstration that despite knowing a genus means nothing, _he's still
> >> > using it_.
> >>
> >> He's using a genus _name_ as a _clade name_. I really can't see why he
> >> shouldn't.
> >>
> >> > When Mike says "[t]hey're just names on characteristic specimens",
> >> > then he really doesn't understand the problem to its extreme:
> >> > scientific nomenclature names the specimens as proxies for a set of
> >> > organisms, but the "genus" and the "species" are completely different
> >> > from the _specimens_,
> >>
> >> The names are attached to the type specimens; the set of organisms
> >> consists of the type specimen and, in practice (at least in
> >> paleontology), all others that are similar enough to it.
> >>
> >> > and intend to describe instead a set without any concordant value.
> >> > _They have no intrinsic value_.
> >>
> >> Please explain what you mean by "concordant value" and "intrinsic value".
> >>
> >> > I similarly have no problem with a taxon named *Giraffatitan* or
> >> > another named *Brachiosaurus*. What I have a problem with is people
> >> > determining that a taxon named *brancai* MUST or SHOULD be divided
> >> > from *altithorax* in a fixed fashion that can be comapred to other
> >> > issues, like how to divide *Psittacosaurus* into neat, clean "genera"
> >> > or whatever.
> >>
> >> These two cases are the same as far as the ICZN is concerned, but not as
> >> far as the practice of the last few decades is concerned.
> >> *Psittacosaurus* as currently understood is, apparently, monophyletic.
> >> *Brachiosaurus* as it used to be understood is probably not
> >> monophyletic; in addition to Mike's own phylogenetic analysis which
> >> showed a lack of evidence for monophyly, there's one that finds it to be
> >> para- or polyphyletic (I don't remember) and was presented at last
> >> year's SVP meeting. The ICZN is fine with para- and even polyphyletic
> >> genera; but few biologists these days are. Given the high probability
> >> that *Brachiosaurus* and *Giraffatitan* are not sister-groups, it was a
> >> good move to separate them nomenclaturally.
> >>
> >> > [...] paleontologists and zoologists may have directly contradicting
> >> > views on species identification, despite using the same nomenclatural
> >> > system.
> >>
> >> Different neontologists have very different views on species
> >> identification, too. There is much controversy over many individual
> >> cases and over general questions like whether subspecies should be
> >> recognized at all (as opposed to promoting them to species rank).
> >
> >