27 February 2012

What Is Phylogenetic Nomenclature?

Sometimes when discussing the PhyloCode, I get the feeling a lot of potentially interested parties don't understand what phylogenetic nomenclature actually is. I have gone into excruciating detail on this topic elsewhere, but who wants to be excruciated? So here's a brief summary of the process of creating a phylogenetic taxonomy.

1. Declare Operational Taxonomic Units
Result: Alpha Taxonomy

The very first step is to decide what your units are. Are you dealing with individual organisms? Populations? Species? Which ones? Whatever you select, there should be an unambiguous way of referring to these taxonomic units (specimen numbers, species names, etc.).

Phylogenetic nomenclature is flexible as to how you determine and name taxonomic units. (Although the names must be relateable to those used in definitions [see Step 3].)

Example: My operational taxonomic units are the whale species Aetiocetus cotylalveusBalaena mysticetus, Balaenoptera physalus, Delphinus delphis, and Monodon monoceros.

Operational Taxonomic Units
Silhouettes by Chris huh and T. Michael Keesey, taken from PhyloPic.
Image license: CC-BY-SA 3.0

22 February 2012

Guest Post: The Consolidation of Language

Today we have another guest post by Elaine Hirsch, this time on the thorny issue of language consolidation. One the one hand, it's a terrible tragedy that so many languages are going extinct. On the other hand, it's difficult to function as a global society when za nafrur hun tnayr nart nir nils.

The need to learn a commonly-spoken language in today's world has been accelerated by the prevalence of communication technology, which has turned the world into a global community. An increase in the use of the internet throughout the world has resulted in a small set of languages dominating the world population, resulting in the elimination of many others. The consolidation of language has become especially important in industry and business. However, language consolidation has buttressed barriers to a wide range of studies, ranging from marketing to engineering to medical transcription. This is due to the fact that the ability to communicate, regardless of culture, can mean the difference between success and failure.

15 February 2012

Amending the PhyloCode: The Species Problem

Earlier I mentioned a proposal by Cellinese, Baum, and Mishler to make a major revision to the PhyloCode, removing pretty much all mention of "species". In this post I'm going to take a high-level look at some of the proposed changes.

13 February 2012

Half a Thousand Silhouettes

Last night PhyloPic reached 500 images! Here's the 500th, a Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaicus) by Steven Traver:

Steven submitted 71 silhouettes in the past week! (All vector, too.) I'd like to take a moment to recognize all the people who have submitted silhouettes numbering in the double digits: