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Point of view: Higher taxa changes in the WPD

Added on 2012-05-17 16:23:19 by van Soest, Rob
Authors of recent phylogenetic papers in which new higher taxa are proposed based on new (molecular) results must exercise patience in awaiting incorporation of their proposals in the WPD. We take the view that continuity and internal consistency of the WPD classification dictates restraint with implementing high impact changes.
Classification and phylogeny of sponges should be congruent in ideal circumstances, but practice is often different: the strength of phylogenetic results is a.o. hampered by taxon sample size: how much can we rely on incomplete phylogenetic coverage of studies to have implications for the classification of unstudied taxa ? Can we reassign entire higher taxa on the basis of the study of few indviduals and few species ? How well established will the proposed changes stay after multiple independent studies have been done ? This is especially pregnant in the case of new higher taxa proposals that do not seem to be congruent with morphological characters. We will view new higher taxa proposals critically and will not allow the internal consistency of the WPD - the taxon tree - compromised by the accumulation of 'orphan' taxa that can not be classified. The tree is at the heart of the database structure, which allows information retrieval from the WPD to be quick, certain, and comprehensive. Of necessity, the WPD classification will lag behind in implementing new insights in the phylogenetic relationships.

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