The Limits of Cladism

Systematic Zoology 28 (4):416-440 (1979)
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Abstract

The goal of cladistic systematics is to discern sister-group relations (cladistic relations) by the methods of cladistic analysis and to represent them explicitly and unambiguously in cladograms and cladistic classifications. Cladists have selected cladistic relations to represent for two reasons: cladistic relations can be discerned with reasonable certainty by the methods of cladistic analysis and they can be represented with relative ease in cladograms and classifications. Cladists argue that features of phylogeny other than cladistic relations cannot be discerned with sufficient certainty to warrant attempting to represent them in either cladograms or classifications and could not be represented if they could. I argue that a better alternative is to work toward improving methods of cladistic analysis (or else to supplement them with other methods) so that such features of phylogeny can be discerned and to devise methods of representation capable of representing them in both cladograms and classifications. However, cladograms and classifications cannot represent everything about phylogeny. It is better to represent one or two aspects of phylogeny explicitly and unambiguously than nothing at all.

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