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Monday, September 13, 2004


Researchers have begun to chip away at two hallmarks of biological science: Linnean nomenclature and the "Tree of Life" model.

UCLA scientists have found, by genomic analysis, that the first eukaryotic cell was formed by the physical fusion of two prokaryotes. They consequently assert that the "Tree" of life is more accurately represented as a ring, and, being proper nerds, titled their paper "One Ring to Rule Them All." Without the full-text, I'm not sure really how I feel about this, but it sounds interesting.

A movement has begun within some circles to abandon the Linnean nomenclature, that's the one we all learned in High School biology - Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species - for a new system called PhyloCode. The PhyloCode proponents are of course regarded as renegades, and I suspect that PhyloCode may also be proprietary (i.e., a business venture, which is no way to do science), but they seem to have a point. Linneaus' system, while brilliant, is fairly limited to its phenotypical origins: it does not (cannot?) account for genomic classifications, and as more and more families and even classes and phyla are discovered, it becomes unwieldy. A new system might be good, but which one is the question.

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