The Hunting of the SNaRC: A Snarky Solution to the Species Problem

Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 10 (1) (2018)
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We argue that the logical outcome of the cladistics revolution in biological systematics, and the move towards rankless phylogenetic classification of nested monophyletic groups as formalized in the PhyloCode, is to eliminate the species rank along with all the others and simply name clades. We propose that the lowest level of formally named clade be the SNaRC, the Smallest Named and Registered Clade. The SNaRC is an epistemic level in the classification, not an ontic one. Naming stops at that level because there is no currently acceptable evidence for clades within it, not because no smaller clades exist. Later, included clades may be named. They would then become the SNaRCs, while the original SNaRC would keep its original name. We argue that all theoretical tasks of biology, in evolution and ecology, as well as practical tasks such as conservation assessment, are better approached using this rankless phylogenetic approach.

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John Wilkins
University of Melbourne


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