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Foundations of Systematics and Biogeography

By: David M Williams and Malte C Ebach

309 pages, no illustrations


Hardback | Dec 2007 | #170007 | ISBN-13: 9780387727288
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £139.99 $185/€159 approx

About this book

This volume draws attention to the seminal studies and important
advances that have shaped systematic and biogeographic thinking and continue to influence its direction today. It traces concepts in homology and classification from the 19th century to the present through the provision of a unique anthology of scientific writings from Goethe, Agassiz, Geoffroy St. Hilaire, Owen, Naef, Zangerl and Nelson, among others. In addition, current attitudes and practices in comparative biology are interrogated, particularly in relation to evolutionary studies leading to a re-statement of the principal aims of the discipline.

In order to alert prospective students to pitfalls common in systematics and biogeography, the book highlights three principal messages: biological classifications and their explanatory mechanisms are separate notions; most, if not all, homology concepts pre-date the works of Darwin; and that the foundation of all comparative biology is the concept of relationship - neither 'similarity' nor 'genealogical hypotheses of descent' are sufficient.

From the reviews: "Using a historical approach, Williams (Natural History Museum, London) and Ebach (Freie Universitat, Berlin) illuminate the differences among the competing philosophical camps of systematicists. Their work provides incisive definitions of many conceptual and interpretational aspects of systematics and biogeography. ! The authors' apparent intent is ! to provide focus for the next phase of debate on the practice and philosophy of phylogenetics. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty." (S. R. Fegley, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (9), 2008) "This is a book worth pondering. ! Williams and Ebach have produced a book from which almost all of us can learn things we did not know about the history and practice of our field. It should be especially useful for students, who may even discover that there is more to systematics than just choosing a model, running some software, and varying its parameters until the results seem at least vaguely palatable." (Norman I. Platnick, Systematic Biology, Vol. 85, 2009)


Introduction - Systematics, Evolution and Classification.- Systematics as Problem-Solving.- The Archetype.- Ernst Haeckel and Systematische Phylogenie.- The German Development of Morphology: From Ernst Haeckel to Willi Hennig.- Pattern Cladistics.- Homologues and Homology.- Discovering Homologues.- Homology and Systematics.- Homology and Transformation.- Character Conflict.- The Analyses of Relationships.- Biogeographical Relationships, Evolution and Classification.

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David M. Williams is a diatom researcher and Head of Global Biodiversity Group in the Department of Botany, The Natural History Museum, London. He has published over 150 scientific papers, including 6 books. Among his books he is a co-author of the standard text Cladistics: The Theory and Practice of Parsimony Analysis (1992) and co-editor on Models in Phylogeny Reconstruction (1994) and Milestones in Systematics (2004). He is interested in the history and theory of systematics and biogeography and the systmatics of diatoms. Malte C. Ebach is the WP5 Scientific Coordinator for the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. His interests include the history and theory of comparative biology (systematics and biogeography), Goethe's way of Science and when he has the time, trilobite taxonomy.

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