Floras to Phylogenies: Why Descriptive Taxonomy Matters

Sandra Knapp and J. Robert Press

in Beyond Cladistics

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780520267725
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947993 | DOI:
Floras to Phylogenies: Why Descriptive Taxonomy Matters

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Taxonomy has also been characterized as description, phylogeny, and identification. Description is central to most visions of what the science of taxonomy should be, but the importance and prominence of descriptive taxonomy as an enterprise has been in sharp decline, particularly relative to the advances made in phylogenetics with the adoption of molecular techniques. In the context of the future of cladistics, descriptive taxonomy takes on a new importance and relevance as the evidence on which reciprocal illumination is based. This chapter discusses some of the reasons why descriptive taxonomy is critically important for both the generation and evaluation of further data on the biology of organisms. It uses the term “description” to mean a synthetic word picture of an organism, encompassing morphological characteristics drawn from specimens, both living and preserved. It draws ideas from the botanical tradition of floristics and monography, although the description as an essential building block for future hypothesis development is applicable in many groups of organisms.

Keywords: descriptive taxonomy; description; phylogeny; cladistics; reciprocal illumination; biology; floristics; monography

Chapter.  4287 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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