The past 35 years in biological systematics have been a time of remarkable philosophical and methodological developments. For nearly a century after Darwin's Origin of Species, systematists worked to understand the diversity of nature based on evolutionary relationships. Numerous concepts were presented and elaborated upon, such as homology, parallelism, divergence, primitiveness and advancedness, cladogenesis and anagenesis. Classifications were based solidly on phylogenetic concepts; they were avowedly monophyletic. Phenetics emphasized the immense challenges represented by phylogeny reconstruction and advised against basing classifications upon it. Pheneticists forced reevaluation of all previous classificatory efforts, and objectivity and repeatability in both grouping and ranking were stressed. The concept of character state was developed, and numerous debates focused on other concepts, such as unit character, homology, similarity, and distance. The simultaneous availability of computers allowed phenetics to explore new limits. Despite numerous positive aspects of phenetics, the near absence of evolutionary insights led eventually to cladistics. Drawing directly from phenetics and from the Hennigian philosophical school, cladistics evolved as an explicit means of deriving branching patterns of phylogeny and upon which classifications might be based. Two decades of cladistics have given us: refined arguments on homology and the evolutionary content of characters and states, views of classifications as testable hypotheses, and computer algorithms for constructing branching patterns of evolution. In contrast to the phenetic movement, which was noteworthy for seeking newer concepts and methods, even including determining evolutionary relationships (which led eventually to numerical cladistics), many cladists have solidified their approaches based on parsimony, outgroups, and holophyly. Instead of looking for newer ways to represent phylogeny, some cladists have attempted to use branching patterns: (1) as a strict basis for biological classification and nomenclature and (2) to explain the origin of biological diversity even down to the populational level. This paper argues that cladistics is inappropriate to both these goals due to: (1) inability of branching patterns to reveal all significant dimensions of phylogeny; (2) acknowledged patterns of reticulate evolution, especially in flowering plants; (3) documented nonparsimonious pathways of evolution: and (4) nondichotomous distribution of genetic variation within populations. New concepts and methods of reconstructing phylogeny and developing classifications must be sought. Most important is incorporation of genetic-based evolutionary divergence within lineages for purposes of grouping and ranking.
Stuessy, Tod F.
"Classification: More than Just Branching Patterns of Evolution,"
Aliso: A Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany:
2, Article 6.
Available at: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/aliso/vol15/iss2/6
© 1997 Tod F. Stuessy
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