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All the whales of the world, ever (part II)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Welcome to part II of the Tet Zoo cetacean clearing house. With stem-cetaceans (‘archaeocetes’) and mysticetes out of the way (go here for part I), we come to odontocetes.

ResearchBlogging.org

Many key odontocete traits are found in the maxilla and ear region, most of which are related to soft tissue structures involved in noise-making and hearing. For these, of course, are the echolocating cetaceans. The odontocete radiation includes sperm whales, beaked whales, the various ‘river dolphins’, and the true dolphins and their relatives. However, a large number of fossils forms don’t fall neatly into any of these four clusters. Some – including Archaeodelphis, Agorophius, Simocetus and Squaloziphius – might be stem-odontocetes, outside the clade formed by the modern species (Uhen et al. 2008, Geisler et al. 2011). I haven’t covered any of the respective taxa at all yet and really should do, since they’re very neat. Squaloziphius was originally described as an archaic beaked whale (Muizon 1991).

Sperm whales

Despite our familiarity with historical scenes like this, most sperm whales were killed during the 1960s (when c. 30,000 whales were killed every year). The scene depicted here really happened (apparently).

Sperm whales (Physeteroidea) are among the most morphologically aberrant of odontocetes and also seem to be one of the oldest surviving lineages. I prefer a taxonomic arrangement where the ‘big sperm whales’ are treated as a different ‘family’ from the dwarf and pygmy sperm whales: that is, they’re classified in Physeteridae and Kogiidae.

Members of both groups have been covered on Tet Zoo a few times. Physeter – the big sperm whale (aka Great sperm whale, or just Sperm whale) – is one of the most remarkable of all mammals in my opinion and there’s virtually no end to the amount of neat stuff there is to say about it. I’ve written about the peculiar dentition of Physeter, about various fossil sperm whales [that’s Zygophyseter shown above, from Bianucci & Landini (2006)], and about kogiid anatomy. I still plan to talk about the soft-tissue anatomy of Physeter’s head at some stage (you might know, or recall, that this topic was featured in the most recent series of Inside Nature’s Giants).

Beaked whales (and possible kin)

The living beaked whale Hyperoodon (bottlenose whale), by your humble author.

Beaked whales (Ziphiidae) are diverse but famously little known, and an improving fossil record shows that they’ve been substantially diverse since the Miocene at least. Beaked whales are exciting for lots of reasons. We know comparatively little about their biology and behaviour, and we also know next to nothing about how various of the species are doing in terms of their populations and distributions. Several new species have been named in recent decades (making the group of special interest to those who keep tabs on new and recently discovered large animal species), and more are definitely due to come.

Jaws of Strap-toothed beaked whale (Mesoplodon layardii) with crazy mandibular dentition.

It has sometimes been hypothesised that beaked whales formed a clade with sperm whales: Muizon (1988a) named this Physeterida while Fordyce (1994), Geisler & Sanders (2003) and Uhen et al. (2008) used Physeteroidea for this grouping. Other studies reject the monophyly of Physeterida, instead finding beaked whales to be part of a clade that includes ‘river dolphins’ and true dolphins but not sperm whales. Geisler et al. (2011) used the name Synrhina for this clade, defining it as the node-based clade that includes Platanista gangetica, Ziphius cavirostris and Tursiops truncatus. Beaked whales have been covered a few times on Tet Zoo…

A group of long-beaked, mostly Miocene, fossil odontocetes called Eurhinodelphinidae were regarded as close relatives of ziphiids by Lambert (2005). Eurhinodelphis – the exemplar of the group (often depicted as looking something like a cetacean billfish) – has been regarded as a close relative of Platanista by other workers (Geisler & Sanders 2003) and was regarded ‘traditionally’ as a close relative of true dolphins. Possible freshwater eurhinodelphinids are known from Australia (Fordyce 1983). [Photo of Eurhinodelphis (and Squalodon) skull below by Ghedoghedo.]

Skull of Eurhinodelphis cocheteuxi, photographed at the IRSNB (Belgium), with the squalodontid Squalodon bariensis to the left. Photo by Ghedoghedo.

River dolphins: of Platanista, Baiji, Boto and Franciscana

Within Synrhina, it has been widely acknowledged for years now that the so-called river dolphins are not monophyletic (e.g., Cassens et al. 2000, Nikaido et al. 2001); however, the South American Boto (Inia) and its fossil relatives (the clade Iniidae) and the Franciscana (Pontoporia) and its fossil relatives (the clade Pontoporiidae) are consistently recovered as sister-taxa in just about all studies. The name Inioidea exists for this clade. The Baiji or Yangtze river dolphin Lipotes vexilifer – the sole modern representative of Lipotidae – may be closely related to Inioidea.

Zarhachis, from Kellogg (1928).

The remaining ‘river dolphins’ are the two Platanista species of the Indus and Ganges. Appearance-wise, these are among the most incredible of cetaceans, with their miniscule, lens-less eyes, slim, interlocking teeth, broad flippers and habit of swimming on their sides. Muizon (1987, 1994) suggested that Platanista might be closely related to the long-beaked fossil squalodonts of the Oligocene and Miocene, mostly on the basis of shared features of the scapula. Barnes (2006) included the ‘families’ Allodelphinidae, Squalodontidae, Waipatiidae and Squalodelphinidae alongside Platanistidae within ‘Superfamily Platanistoidea’ (see also Fordyce (1994)). This has been informally dubbed the ‘squalo-susu hypothesis’ (Susu is a local name for Platanista). The idea that Platanista represents the sole, sorry survivor of the once mighty squalodont empire is a really appealing idea, but some recent studies haven’t supported it (Geisler & Sanders 2003, Geisler et al. 2011). However, even these studies do find at least a few fossil long-beaked odontocetes previously regarded as squalodonts to be close relatives of Platanista, including everybody’s favourite – the incredibly long-beaked Zarhachis.

All river dolphins are, as is well known, superficially alike: they’re long-beaked, typically greyish odontocetes with small or very small eyes, slender teeth and broad flippers. All are endangered or critically endangered by pollution, damming, habitat loss, hunting, competition for prey and other factors. Their future is not bright, and indeed it now seems that the Yangtze river dolphin is functionally extinct (Turvey et al. 2007). This means that, while there might still be a handful of individuals in existence (sightings of a live one were reported in 2007), there are almost certainly not enough to sustain a population. For Tet Zoo articles on river dolphins and such, see…

True dolphins and their relatives the kentriodontids, porpoises, monodontids and walrus whales

Male narwhals: photo by Glenn Williams.

Finally, we come to Delphinoidea: the clade that includes narwhals and belugas (Monodontidae), porpoises (Phocoenidae) and true dolphins (Delphinidae). A few fossil taxa – including Albireo, the various kentriodontids and the incredible ‘walrus whales’ Odobenocetops – don’t fall within these clades but are probably closely related to them. Geisler et al. (2011) found both Albireo and Kentriodon (the type taxon for Kentriodontidae) and Atocetus (another supposed kentriodontid) to be stem-delphinoids.

Insane skull of Odobenocetops leptodon. From Muizon & Domning (2002).

Kentriodontids are (mostly) small (2 m long or less), archaic, Oligo-Miocene odontocetes with symmetrical skulls, originally imagined to be early relatives of delphinids. Oddballs include Tagicetus from Portugal with its especially long rostrum (it was originally identified as a eurhinodelphinid) and the relatively huge Macrokentriodon from Maryland (perhaps four times as large as most other members of the group). Convincing evidence for kentriodontid monophyly has yet to be found (though see Muizon 1988b), and nor has evidence putting them especially close to delphinids.

Monodontids are among my favourite cetaceans – they truly are very bizarre. I mean to say about a lot more about them, but so far have at least written about the possible function of the male Narwhal’s incredible tusk. The two Odobenocetops species likely represent close relatives of crown-monodontids, but this hypothesis still awaits proper testing. Recent work indicates that monodontids and porpoises are sister-taxa, forming the clade Monodontoidea (Waddell et al. 2000, Geisler et al. 2011). Living porpoises are all small, blunt-headed delphinoids but some fossil species were long-skulled and superficially dolphin-like. One of them (as yet undescribed) is super-weird in having a lower jaw that’s rather longer than the upper one.

Bottlenose dolphin (presumably Tursiops truncatus); photo by NASA, from wikipedia.

True dolphins (Delphinidae) include both short-snouted orca-like and pilot-like forms (sometimes grouped together as globicephalines) and long-beaked forms like bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops) and the Stenella and Delphinus species. There are also some weird fossil forms, like the toothless, ziphiid-mimicking Australodelphis from the Pliocene of Antarctica (Fordyce et al. 2002) and stupid-headed Platalearostrum from the Plio-Pleistocene of the North Sea (Post & Kompanje 2010). How many species several of the classic genera (like Orcinus, Tursiops and Delphinus) actually contain remains the topic of argument and there are various different views on how these animals are related. Orcinus may not be at all close to Globicephala (the pilot whales). The ‘lags’ – the Lagenorhynchus dolphins – prove not to be monophyletic, so recent work has resulted in the use of the new or resurrected generic names Leucopleurus (for the Atlantic white-sided dolphin) and Sagmatius for several of the others (LeDuc et al. 1999). Interestingly, there are indications that some other traditional dophin genera might also not be monophyletic. A new species of bottlenose dolphin was named earlier this year from Australia (the Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis) and it grouped well away from the rest of Tursiops in a phylogenetic analysis (Charlton-Robb et al. 2011). The authors therefore suggested that it could warrant a new ‘genus’ (they suggested the potential name Tursiodelphis) but retained it in Tursiops for conservative reasons.

An orca pack takes on a blue whale, from a famous sequence of photos credited to Bob Vile/Hubbs Sea World Research Insititue/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

So that’s that – a quick tour of Cetacea… though it certainly wouldn’t be all that quick if you followed all the links and read all the linked-to articles. As usual, there is still tons of work left to do in terms of properly covering this diverse, successful and fascinating clade.

Refs – -

Barnes, L. G. 2006. A phylogenetic analysis of the superfamily Platanistoidea (Mammalia, Cetacea, Odontoceti). Beiträge zur Paläontologie 30, 25-42.

Bianucci, G. & Landini, W. 2006. Killer sperm whale: a new basal physeteroid (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the Late Miocene of Italy. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 148, 103-131.

Cassens, I., Vicario, S., Waddell, V. G., Balchowsky, H., Van Belle, D., Ding, W., Fan, C., Mohan, R. S., Simões-Lopes, P. C., Bastida, R., Meyer, A., Stanhope, M. J., & Milinkovitch, M. C. (2000). Independent adaptation to riverine habitats allowed survival of ancient cetacean lineages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97 (21), 11343-7 PMID: 11027333

Charlton-Robb, K,, Gershwin, L.-a., Thompson, R., Austin, J., Owen, K. & McKechnie, S. 2011. A new dolphin species, the Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis sp. nov., endemic to southern Australian coastal waters. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24047. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024047

Fordyce, F. E. 1983. Rhabdosteid dolphins (Mammalia: Cetacea) from the Middle Miocene, Lake Frome area, South Australia. Alcheringa 7, 27-40.

- . 1994. Waipatia marewhenua, new genus and new species (Waipatiidae, new family), an archaic Late Oligocene dolphin (Cetacea: Odontoceti: Platanistoidea) from New Zealand. Proceedings of the San Diego Society of Natural History 29, 147-176.

- ., Quilty, P. G. & Daniels, J. 2002. Australodelphis mirus, a bizarre new toothless ziphiid-like fossil dolphin (Cetacea: Delphinidae) from the Pliocene of Vestfold Hills, east Antarctica. Antarctic Science 14, 37-54.

Geisler, J. H., McGowen, M. R., Yang, G. & Gatesy, J. 2011. A supermatrix analysis of genomic, morphological, and paleontological data from crown Cetacea. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:112 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/11/112

Geisler, J. H. & Sanders, A. E. 2003. Morphological evidence for the phylogeny of Cetacea. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 10, 23-129.

Kellogg, R. 1928. The history of whales – their adaptation to life in the water (concluded). Quarterly Review of Biology 3, 174-208.

Lambert, O. 2005. Phylogenetic affinities of the long-snouted dolphin Eurhinodelphis (Cetacea, Odontoceti) from the Miocene of Antwerp, Belgium. Palaeontology 48, 653-679.

LeDuc, R. G., Perrin, W. F. & Dizon, A. E. 1999. Phylogenetic relationships among the delphinid cetaceans based on full cytochrome b sequences. Marine Mammal Science 15, 619-648.

Muizon, C. de 1987. The affinities of Notocetus vanbenedeni, an Early Miocene platanistoid (Cetacea, Mammalia) from Patagonia, southern Argentina. American Museum Novitates 2904, 1-27.

- . 1988a. Les vertebres fossiles de la Formation Pisco (Perou). Troisieme partie: Les Odontocetes (Cetacea, Mammalia) du Miocene. Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations 78, 1-244

- . 1988b. Les relations phylogénétiques des Delphinida (Cetacea, Mammalia). Annales de Paléontologie (Vert.-Invert.) 74, 159-227.

- . 1994. Are the squalodonts related to the platanistoids? Proceedings of the San Diego Society of Natural History 29, 135-146.

- . 1991. A new Ziphiidae (Cetacea) from the Early Miocene of Washington Sate (USA) and phylogenetic analysis of the major groups of odontocetes. Bulletin de la Musee d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris (4e sér.) 12, 279-326.

- . & Domning, D. P. 2002. The anatomy of Odobenocetops (Delphinoidea, Mammalia), the walrus-like dolphin from the Pliocene of Peru and its palaeobiological implications. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 134, 423-452.

Nikaido, M., Matsuno, F., Hamilton, H., Brownell, R. L., Cao, Y., Ding, W., Zuoyan, Z., Sheldock, A. M., Fordyce, R. E., Hasegawa, M. & Okada, N. 2001. Retroposon analysis of major cetacean lineages: the monophyly of toothed whales and the paraphyly of river dolphins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, 7384-7389.

Post, K. & Kompanje, E. J. O. 2010. A new dolphin (Cetacea, Delphinidae) from the Plio-Pleistocene of the North Sea. Deinsea 14, 1-13.

Turvey, S. T., Pitman, R. L., Taylor, B. L., Barlow, J., Akamatsu, T., Barrett, L. A., Zhao, X., Reeves, R. R., Stewert, B. S., Wang, K., Wei, Z., Zhang, X., Pusser, L.T., Richlen, M., Brandon, J. R. & Wang, D. 2007. First human-caused extinction of a cetacean species? Biology Letters 3, 537-540.

Uhen, M. D., Fordyce, R. E. & Barnes, L. G. 2008. Odontoceti. In Janis, C. M., Gunnell, G. F. & Uhen, M. D. (eds) Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America Volume 2: Small Mammals, Xenarthrans, and Marine Mammals. Cambridge University Press, pp. 566-606.

Waddell, V. G., Milinkovitch, M. C., Bérube, M. & Stanhope, M. J. 2000. Molecular phylogenetic examination of the Delphinoidea trichotomy: congruent evidence from three nuclear loci indicate that porpoises (Phocoenidae) share a more recent common ancestry with white whales (Monodontidae) than they do with true dolphins (Delphinidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 15, 314-318.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Morgan Churchill 1:10 am 12/8/2011

    At the Biennial Marine Mammal Conference last week, Bill Perrin in his plenary talk mentioned a paper he is in the process of submitting that actually would lump Stenella, Delphinus, Sousa, and Tursiops into a larger Delphinus. I rather agree with this approach; the morphological differences between these taxa are not large enough (IMHO) to necessitate further genera level splitting of the group.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Dartian 1:52 am 12/8/2011

    Darren:
    The scene depicted here really happened (apparently).

    So what, exactly, is happening in that scene? An adult sperm whale tries to carry a juvenile to safety in its mouth? Did it succeed?

    Regarding orcas: Is the extant killer whale Orcinus orca (sensu lato) really the largest known delphinid, or are there any extinct dolphin species that were larger?

    Link to this
  3. 3. Boesse 4:02 am 12/8/2011

    “are there any extinct dolphin species that were larger?”

    So far, none even approach Orcinus. Globicephalines are relatively rare as fossils in the first place, and are best represented in the Pliocene of Italy. The Pliocene Orcinus citoniensis is smaller than extant Globicephala, and most Globicephala and Pseudorca-like critters are either similar in size or smaller. Other taxa like Protoglobicephala and Hemisyntrachelus are just slightly larger than extant bottlenose dolphins. Aside from O. citoniensis, the only other pre-Pleistocene fossils of Orcinus is an isolated tooth from the Pliocene of Japan. Aside from these aforementioned specimens and the bizarre Platalearostrum, there are other scrappy globicephaline fossils (Globicephala, Pseudorca, Arimidelphis, Hemisyntrachelus, Astadelphis, etc.) from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Peru, California, North Carolina, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, and I believe Australia and New Zealand. Not that I’m implying that Orcinus is a globicephaline – most of its globicephaline-like features could be related to its large size (which due in part to this and its black coloration were the original reasons for inclusion within the Globicephalinae or “Blackfish”).

    It appears that the majority of the radiation and diversification of crown delphinids occurred nearly completely within the Pliocene – a relatively recent diversification explains both the fossil record of these taxa, the extreme degree of hybridization, and the high morphological similarity between many of these extant taxa.

    Here’s a couple of good papers on fossil globicephalines:

    G. Aguirre-Fernandez, L. G. Barnes, F. J. Aranda-Manteca and J. R. Fernandez-Rivera. 2009. Protoglobicephala mexicana, a new genus and species of Pliocene fossil dolphin (Cetacea; Odontoceti; Delphinidae) from the Gulf of California, Mexico. Boletin de la Sociedad Geologica Mexicana 61(2):245-265.

    Bianucci, G., 1996, The Odontoceti (Mammalia, Cetacea) from Italian Pliocene. Systematics and phylogenesis of Delphinidae: Palaeontographia Italica, 83, 73-167.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Boesse 4:06 am 12/8/2011

    By the way Darren, excellent work! To be quite honest, there could just as easily be a dozen posts of this length on fossil odontocetes, which in the fossil record were even more disparate than they are today (even only 2-5 million years ago, things were considerably weirder).

    Link to this
  5. 5. Gigantala 8:12 am 12/8/2011

    I must say, river dolphins are among the most fascinating synrhine odontocetes, specially now that the aiji might had been closely related or even part of Inioidea.

    Is Pontoporia doomed to extinction as well? I was under the impression that it was safer than the other species.

    Link to this
  6. 6. David Marjanović 9:21 am 12/8/2011

    stupid-headed

    ROTFLMAO!

    At the Biennial Marine Mammal Conference last week, Bill Perrin in his plenary talk mentioned a paper he is in the process of submitting that actually would lump Stenella, Delphinus, Sousa, and Tursiops into a larger Delphinus. I rather agree with this approach; the morphological differences between these taxa are not large enough (IMHO) to necessitate further genera level splitting of the group.

    Meh. Such a genus would be confusingly large. Splitting is good preparation for uninominals. B-)

    Link to this
  7. 7. Jerrold Alpern 11:06 am 12/8/2011

    Dartian,

    I second your inquiry. Here is the image on a German Wikipedia page : http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walfang. The caption says that juveniles are also harpooned in order to attract the older whales. Presumably, then, the engraving was based on whalers’ stories. Perhaps there is more in the body of the article but my German is not up to translating it all.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Andreas Johansson 1:00 pm 12/8/2011

    I can’t find anything in the text of the German Wiki page that expands on the picture.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Christopher Taylor 5:29 pm 12/8/2011

    At the Biennial Marine Mammal Conference last week, Bill Perrin in his plenary talk mentioned a paper he is in the process of submitting that actually would lump Stenella, Delphinus, Sousa, and Tursiops into a larger Delphinus.

    One hurdle that I can think of with this is that, given the history of the genus Delphinus, he runs the risk of unleashing a homonymy nightmare.

    Link to this
  10. 10. Dartian 1:24 am 12/9/2011

    Boesse: Thanks for the reply!

    David:
    Splitting is good preparation for uninominals.

    Wait, what? Three years ago, you specifically said that:
    the PhyloCode will not introduce uninominal species names

    Explain yourself plz.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Andreas Johansson 7:50 am 12/9/2011

    David thinks that we should have uninominals (for species) in the future. The PhyloCode will not introduce them (for species). I’m not sure what there’s to explain?

    Link to this
  12. 12. Dartian 8:13 am 12/9/2011

    Andreas:
    David thinks that we should have uninominals (for species) in the future. The PhyloCode will not introduce them

    Considering that he is an active, elected member of the International Society for Phylogenetic Nomenclature it would seem that David currently pretty much is the PhyloCode. One must therefore assume that any comment or statement that he makes (under his own name, no less) on this issue more or less represents current official ISPN policy/strategy. (Unless he’s joking, but he’s not really known for being the joking type.)

    I’m not sure what there’s to explain?

    How about letting David explain that himself?

    Link to this
  13. 13. David Marjanović 9:10 am 12/9/2011

    David thinks that we should have uninominals (for species) in the future. The PhyloCode will not introduce them (for species). I’m not sure what there’s to explain?

    Almost. :-) I misexpressed myself. I’m in the privileged position that I can keep myself out of species nomenclature altogether. I want names for clades all the way down to the LITUs*, and Mesozoic dinosaurs are almost there – almost all genera contain only one so-called species, so species are usually referred to by their genus names.

    The thing about species is…
    1) The rank-based nomenclature codes all require us to refer a specimen to a species if it is to bear any name at all. At the same time, they don’t even try to define “species”.
    2) Lots of people have tried. Problem is, they all defined different things and just called them species. As of February 2009, there were 147 species concepts out there. The differences between them are not always trivial: depending on the species concept, there are from 101 to 249 endemic bird species in Mexico.
    3) Many species concepts, and arguably all interesting ones, are only applicable when you can at least approximate some kind of population biology. That excludes most extinct taxa.
    4) Very few people are ever explicit about which species concept they’re using, and in most cases they probably aren’t quite sure themselves. It happens that one species concept is used as a proxy for another one…

    At least for the foreseeable future, the PhyloCode will not regulate species names at all (there’s even a proposal to drop the current Article 21, and another to greatly shorten it), and it allows people to use specimens that do not belong to a named species as specifiers for clade names, so you can have “genera” without species.

    * Least Inclusive Taxonomic Units = smallest recognizable clades.

    One must therefore assume that any comment or statement that he makes (under his own name, no less) on this issue more or less represents current official ISPN policy/strategy.

    Um. I may not be the joking type, but I’m not the type who writes between the lines either. There is very little communication within even the Committee on Phylogenetic Nomenclature, so very little is actually going on. Most members are simply very busy… The last topic of conversation on the Committee mailing list was what to do about the slow progress on the Companion Volume.

    If anyone “pretty much is the PhyloCode”, that’s Jacques Gauthier, Kevin de Queiroz and Philip Cantino. :-| I’m just the one who posts on blogs (like Mike Keesey, just more often).

    How about letting David explain that himself?

    If you really want to wait till I wake up… :-)

    Link to this
  14. 14. Heteromeles 10:38 am 12/9/2011

    This is not a problem in paleontology, but do realize that species, subspecies, and variety are the terms that actually have legal status, due to the various Endangered Species Acts and CITES.

    Also realize that these laws are under fairly regular assault in places like the US (see the recent Gray Wolf mess), so amending them to better accommodate the naming desires of evolutionary scientists is really a political non-starter in the current climate.

    Link to this
  15. 15. David Marjanović 2:59 pm 12/9/2011

    Some day, all these laws and treaties will have to be amended to specify what they mean by “species”. As long as they mean something determinable, that’s fine with me.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Morgan Churchill 4:36 pm 12/9/2011

    I don’t believe a larger more inclusive Delphinus would be that confusing. Even with future splits in taxa such as “Tursiops”, there will still be far far fewer species under this genus than say, Myodes or Peromyscus. Lumping them under one genus would also highlight the similarities between these taxa, which really are not THAT different from one another.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Dartian 11:08 am 12/10/2011

    David:
    Mesozoic dinosaurs are almost there

    Since you made your original comment in response to a remark about extant delphinid taxonomy, I think it’s better to keep dinosaurs out of this discussion.

    I may not be the joking type, but I’m not the type who writes between the lines either.

    I interpreted what you wrote in comment #6 as literally as reasonably possible, and could not help but to conclude that you’d prefer that uninomial nomenclature be applied to extant species of organisms. Was that an incorrect conclusion?

    I also knew that for some time now, you’ve been deeply involved with the actual nuts-and-bolts development of the PhyloCode, and that you’re familiar with the people who invented it in the first place; thus, I assumed that you are, at the very least, privy to insider information about the current and intended future development of the PhyloCode. Was that an incorrect assumption?

    If anyone “pretty much is the PhyloCode”, that’s Jacques Gauthier, Kevin de Queiroz and Philip Cantino.

    Well, even if those people out-rank (sorry!) you as experts on the PhyloCode, you are still the go-to guy on that subject here on Tet Zoo.

    Link to this
  18. 18. David Marjanović 11:41 am 12/11/2011

    I interpreted what you wrote in comment #6 as literally as reasonably possible, and could not help but to conclude that you’d prefer that uninomial nomenclature be applied to extant species of organisms. Was that an incorrect conclusion?

    Yes. I don’t care much about the nomenclature of species in the first place. (As I later said, I know I’m quite privileged to be in a position where I don’t need to wrestle with species concepts.)

    I also knew that for some time now, you’ve been deeply involved with the actual nuts-and-bolts development of the PhyloCode, and that you’re familiar with the people who invented it in the first place; thus, I assumed that you are, at the very least, privy to insider information about the current and intended future development of the PhyloCode. Was that an incorrect assumption?

    In part, yes. There’s not a lot of current or intended development (apart from finally implementing the damn thing), and this kind of development wouldn’t be kept secret.

    Finally, it has taken some time to make the PhyloCode a halfway cooperative effort. Even now, the authors of the PhyloCode are Cantino and de Queiroz “in consultation with” the Committee on Phylogenetic Nomenclature (of which I’m a member).

    Link to this
  19. 19. David Marjanović 11:44 am 12/11/2011

    The Committee will ratify the first edition of the PhyloCode before implementation and “produce future editions of this code”.

    Link to this
  20. 20. David Marjanović 5:58 am 12/13/2011

    Ah, login works again. I wrote:

    At least for the foreseeable future, the PhyloCode [...] allows people to use specimens that do not belong to a named species as specifiers for clade names, so you can have “genera” without species.

    Oopsie. I was remembering an earlier version of the PhyloCode. *headdesk* The part about specimens not belonging to a named species has long been demoted to Recommendation 11.4A, which reads:

    “The use of specimens that are not types as specifiers is strongly discouraged. This should be done only under the following two circumstances: 1) if the specimen that one would like to use as a specifier cannot be referred to a named species, so that there is no type specimen that could be used instead; or 2) if the clade to be named is within a species.”

    So, just keep in mind that peer review will be a requirement for valid publication (Art. 4.2), and that “cannot be referred to a named species” is of course not defined.

    there’s even a proposal to drop the current Article 21, and another to greatly shorten it

    The first is freely downloadable from the ISPN website. The second, which is by me and which I sent to the CPN mailing list in early October, is apparently considered a comment on the proposal by Cellinese, Mishler & Baum; the comments will be published next year. Everyone is encouraged to write their own comments on the proposal.

    Link to this

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