Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Talking about names....

A new Angiosperm phylogeny paper is finally out!  It clarifies relationships at some of the deeper messier nodes and reinforces our previous knowledge of some others.  The point I want to make here is that the authors use phylogenetic nomenclature to name major clades.  They state:

"For higher clades, we consistently use PhyloCode names (see Cantino et al., 2007 ) whenever these are available; these names are always in italics (e.g., Pentapetalae, Mesangiopsermae, Rosidae, Fabidae, Malvidae). Note that Rosidae (sensu Cantino et al., 2007 ) does include Vitaceae. Our use of family and ordinal names follows APG III (2009) as a formal point of reference; for Caryophyllales, we follow Cantino et al. (2007; hence, the use of italics), which matches the APG III circumscription. For additional recent discussion on families and their status, see the Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (Stevens, 2001 onward). We recognize that some broader family circumscriptions favored in APG III are controversial and can obscure underlying diversity (e.g., Passifloraceae s.l.), which would be evident with narrower circumscriptions."

I hear left and right how the PhyloCode is going to bring a mess in the field of Biology by changing all names and reshaping the Classification (impossible, as it is just a nomenclatural tool). Well, here it is, another shocking paper that imposes so many new names to the community. The way I see it, we now have some pretty well refined concepts attached to names, the same names that have been previously used idiosyncratically. Names that won't change even if the clade content does change. Names that will always refer to the same ancestors. Names that we could actually query and be happy with what we retrieve. That would be indeed a breath of fresh air.