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The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics

The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics

EDITED BY Andrew Hamilton
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 314
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  • Book Info
    The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics
    Book Description:

    The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics aims to make sense of the rise of phylogenetic systematics-its methods, its objects of study, and its theoretical foundations-with contributions from historians, philosophers, and biologists. This volume articulates an intellectual agenda for the study of systematics and taxonomy in a way that connects classification with larger historical themes in the biological sciences, including morphology, experimental and observational approaches, evolution, biogeography, debates over form and function, character transformation, development, and biodiversity. It aims to provide frameworks for answering the question: how did systematics become phylogenetic?

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95675-9
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In spring 2006 I met with the entomologist and systematic theorist Quentin Wheeler to discuss topics of common interest: species concepts, methodology in systematics, the recent history of phylogenetic classification, and biodiversity from a systematics perspective. The conversation turned out to have a surprising twist. Quentin was founding a new research center at Arizona State University—the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE)—that would have a focus on the history and philosophy of systematics. I jumped at the chance to direct this part of the Institute’s program because I saw that there was plenty of work to be done...


    • 1 Reflections on the History of Systematics
      (pp. 17-46)

      Of all the life sciences, systematics is probably the one whose history is least studied. Its celebrity founders have been well historified: Linnaeus, whose universal system of binomial nomenclature still endures; Darwin, who gave classification a biological foundation; and a few others. But of the activities of the hundreds of collectors, curators, and classifiers who have found, preserved, named, and ordered the million-plus species whose world we share—of these our knowledge remains scattered and fragmentary. This is paradoxical, because of all the sciences systematics has the deepest living memory, thanks to rules of nomenclature that oblige those who would...

    • 2 Willi Hennig’s Part in the History of Systematics
      (pp. 47-62)

      Willi Hennig’s method of assessing phylogenetic relationships is sometimes termed a “revolution” (e.g., Dupuis 1990; Mishler 2000; Wheeler 2008) or at least praised as marking “a milestone in the history of systematic biology” (Richter and Meier 1994, 212) or as a new paradigm (Kühne 1978). It might, therefore, be of interest to ask what is so different in cladistics as compared to traditional systematics. And who was the man who caused that turn in this branch of biology? Here I investigate the development of Hennig’s thinking about systematics, tracing the roots of his deviation from traditional methodology and evaluating his...

    • 3 Homology as a Bridge between Evolutionary Morphology, Developmental Evolution, and Phylogenetic Systematics
      (pp. 63-86)

      In one of the central conceptual papers on the homology concept, Hans Spemann introduces an important distinction between phylogenetic or historical and developmental or mechanistic conceptions of homology. This distinction continues to shape debates about homology today (Spemann 1915; but see also Wagner 1989; Hall 1992). A central passage is worth quoting:

      We no longer believe that we first can establish the phylogenetic relations between animals in order to subsequently derive developmental laws. Rather we begin to realize, that we first have to determine these laws, before we can understand or even establish the morphological series that we use to...


    • 4 Historical and Conceptual Perspectives on Modern Systematics: Groups, Ranks, and the Phylogenetic Turn
      (pp. 89-116)

      Charles Darwin is sometimes taken to have been confused about species (Mayr 1982), or to have thought that there isn’t really any such thing (Ereshefsky 2010), despite the fact that his best-known book was putatively about them. These readings of Darwin are not unfounded. Mayr’s (1982) discussion focuses partly on Darwin’s lament that it is difficult to distinguish between species and varieties:

      Practically, when a naturalist can unite two forms together by others having intermediate characters, he treats the one as a variety of the other, ranking the most common, but sometimes the one first described, as the species, and...

    • 5 The Early Cladogenesis of Cladistics
      (pp. 117-138)

      Looking back on the formation of the Willi Hennig Society in 1980, and its journal Cladistics, which started to appear in winter 1985, Lorenzen—in a paper titled “Phylogenetic Systematics Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”—raised the question, “How could it happen that Hennig’s phylogenetic systematics, which was explicitly developed on the basis of evolutionary theory, was robbed of this very foundation, and even met broad approval in such an a-phylogenetic rendition?” (1994, 201). Dupuis (1984) similarly concluded that Willi Hennig’s (1913–76) insights form at best the foundation only of modern systematics, while Hennig’s biographer, Michael Schmitt, found modern systematics...

    • 6 Cladistics at an Earlier Time
      (pp. 139-150)

      Systematic biology today is a complex of conflicting opinion, particularly about cladistics (Ebach, Williams, and Gill 2008; Williams and Ebach 2009). It was not always so. At an earlier time, things were simpler, and the genie was still in the bottle. May we begin with Romer of the 1960s and his expanding curiosity?

      In my earlier years I, too, found much of interest in comparative studies of existing vertebrates. But increasingly I found myself turning to paleontology. Why content myself with hypothetical ancestral types when actual ancestors may be discovered? (Romer 1969, 49)

      Here there is no trace of cladistics,...

    • 7 Patterson’s Curse, Molecular Homology, and the Data Matrix
      (pp. 151-188)

      There is no comprehensive history of cladistics, the theory of systematics that revolutionized comparative biology in the early 1960s and inspired much discussion concerning the interrelationships of systematics, taxonomy, and evolution, as well as the relative importance of each in the discovery of phylogenetic relationships of organisms. Possibly it is too early for any useful history to be written. Three overviews do exist, each very different in perspective (Hull 1988; Craw 1992; Williams and Ebach 2008). There are a number of pertinent reminiscences (see the contributions in Forey, Gardiner, and Humphries 2000 covering reviews for France, Denmark, and the U.K.;...

    • 8 History and Theory in the Development of Phylogenetics in Botany
      (pp. 189-210)

      This chapter is meant to be a brief intellectual history of cladistic approaches to botanical systematics. As such it focuses on the development of ideas, and the forces constraining them, rather than on biography or bibliography. Botany started from a different place, and went in different directions, than did zoology. The empirical concerns were different, the goals of classification were different, beliefs in the underlying pattern of nature were different, and so on. Even the sociological interactions among botanists were different from those among zoologists. There are still differences in all these things today, although at the end of this...


    • 9 Well-Structured Biology: Numerical Taxonomy’s Epistemic Vision for Systematics
      (pp. 213-244)

      The history of twentieth-century systematics is full of periodic calls for revolution and the battles for dominance that followed. At the heart of these disputes has been a disagreement over the place of evolutionary theory in the field: some systematists insist that it is central to their methodology, while others argue that evolution can only be studied from an independent foundation (Hull 1988; Vernon 2001; Felsenstein 2001, 2004). Despite the importance of these battles, another trend across the twentieth century is increasingly relevant as it assumes center stage in current methodology: the value and costs of integrating mathematics and computers...

    • 10 A Comparison of Alternative Form-Characterization: Approaches to the Automated Identification of Biological Species
      (pp. 245-286)

      In American folklore John Henry was a railway laborer whose job was to hammer down the steel spikes that hold railroad tracks in place. Incensed by the railroad company buying a steam-driven hammer to do his job, Henry challenged the hammer driver to a race to determine whether a man or a machine could do the job more quickly. Henry won the race but collapsed and died of exhaustion immediately thereafter “with his hammer in his hand.” The machine went on to replace Henry and his coworkers because, despite Henry’s personal reservations and heroic performance, it could do the job...

    • 11 The New Systematics, the New Taxonomy, and the Future of Biodiversity Studies
      (pp. 287-302)

      This final chapter attempts to bring together several themes in this volume by placing the future practice of taxonomy in historical and conceptual context and asking what kinds of technological investments make sense given taxonomy’s theoretical structure and the need for accelerating taxonomic studies. The view we defend here is that the theoretical and epistemological foundations of taxonomy point toward, rather than away from, the continued development of a new cyberinfrastructure that importantly includes morphology, even as molecular techniques become more common and more sophisticated.

      The second half of this chapter describes efforts in cybertaxonomy that are currently under way...

  8. Index
    (pp. 303-308)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-311)