Series: Abhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Hamburg Series Volume: 28
Edited By: N Schmidt-Kittler and R Willmann
300 pages, 92 figs & 2 tables.
The classification of organisms as a general system of reference is indispensable in all biological disciplines and is the necessary basis for all endeavors towards arriving at a synthetical view in the biosciences. First formulated during the 1950s, Hennig's methodological principles of reconstructing phylogeny and classifying organisms signified a turning point in the development of biosystematics. The traditional concept of determining the kinship of species based on an overall similarity was replaced by a classification based on the emergence of evolutionary novelties (apomorphic character states) in the course of phylogeny. The incontestable advantage of the new methodology is that it lends itself to testing scientific hypotheses.
While there is general agreement as far as the methodology of phylogenetic reconstruction is concerned, translating the results into classifications is still accomplishing in different ways. In German-speaking countries disagreement arose in past decades between neontologists and palaeontologists due to the particularities of their fields. In order to arrive at a consensus, a round-table meeting sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft was held at the University of Mainz in 1988. The articles presented in this volume represent more extensive versions of the contributions given during this symposium and provide stimulating insight into the actual discussion. Among the many topics of general interest dealt with, four areas of discussion in particular might take the form of questions: What is the purpose and what are the aims of biosystematics? How can fossils consistently be classified together with living organisms? How can biosystematics, as an intentionally stable reference system, cope with scientific progress and also incorporate changes in the interpretation of characters? How is gradual evolution, as can be observed in palaeontological documents, reconciliable with the concept of cladogram representation?
Hence, the present volume deals with the basic questions of systematic biology; it is of importance both for neontologists and palaeontologists.
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