The Phylocode: Beating a dead horse? - Discussion

Michael J. Benton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

The concept of the Phylocode has been evolving for some twenty years, and is supported by Lee and Skinner (2007): 1 argue against it here. The first issue is stability, and biologists must decide whether they seek rigidity (Phylocode) or flexibility and conservativeness of clade contents (Linnaean codes). Phylocode names for taxa are by definition stable because they are established as labels for clades that are rigidly defined as geometric constructs. But this is not real stability because the species contained within those clades can change dramatically: an example is given where Phylocode practice forces a decision about the name Deinonychosauria, which can contain 20 or 10,000 species depending on which current tree is correct. Linnaean systems offer real stability (= conservativeness + flexibility) where the taxon name can be moved subtly up and down nodes in a tree to keep its association with a particular character or group of species. Proponents of the Phylocode argue that category/rank terms should be dispensed with, and yet they have no need to do this. Everyone accepts that Linnaean ranks are subjective, and yet there is no benefit in abandoning ranks because they have proved to be of such value to users of classifications, and genera and families, for example, act as valuable surrogates for species in large-scale evolutionary and ecological studies. Finally, the Phylocode extends regulation beyond names and their proper use into determining the validity of phylogenetic hypotheses, and this will act as a limit on normal scientific debate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-655
Number of pages5
JournalActa Palaeontologica Polonica
Volume52
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

Keywords

  • HIGHER-TAXON RICHNESS
  • PHYLOGENETIC NOMENCLATURE
  • SPECIES RICHNESS
  • BIODIVERSITY
  • SURROGATES
  • PATTERNS
  • COMMUNITIES
  • LINNAEUS
  • CLADES

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