Scientific names..

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Zardozi, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. valich Registered Senior Member

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    The term species is important to categorize organisms in taxonomical relationships that make the grouping understandable: Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species. Do you propose a better system? Seven is just right for the human brain to be able to remember and recall. Then for additional classification we add sub- and super-, and infrasub- etc. I think there's about 40 other such ranks sometimes inserted to handle complex divisions.
     
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You have not made your point. The fact that the sperm and ovum of two individuals can be combined to produce a viable offspring is not what defines a species. What defines a species is that those two individuals will mate physically, in a natural environment. Not in a petri dish, not in captivity, not in a distressed environment where the mate of choice is unavailable, not in an ecosystem disturbed by the arrival of man surrounded by odd companions.

    Lions and tigers do not recognize each other as potential mates, so they can only be hybridized by artificial insemination. Horses and donkeys become accustomed to each other and will mate in captivity. Some parrots have become so rare that they will mate with other species out of desperation. Black-headed and rose-breasted grosbeaks encountered each other for the first time when the forest in the center of North America was cut down and turned into farmland, and after feeding on cultivated crops together they began to interbreed.

    None of those is "natural" mating. Lions, tigers, horses, donkeys, double-yellow Amazons, orange-winged Amazons, black-headed grosbeaks and rose-breasted grosbeaks are distinct species and will obey their instinct to maintain separate communities in an undisturbed natural environment. There's nothing "meaningless" about that organization.

    To say that the definition of species has become meaningless since humans developed the ability to artificially cross-breed the original ancestral species--either deliberately by domestication or haphazardly by environmental upheaval--is to ignore the role of instinct in maintaining discrete gene pools. That is a very important role.
     
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  5. IceAgeCivilizations Banned Banned

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    Uh, Frag, the fact that all the cats are capable of interbreeding proves that they came from common cat ancestors, not dog ancestors, nor tree shrew ancestors.

    Turtles even interbreed up to the Family level, and yet they are demarcated at the species level, meaningless.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Cats do not interbreed outside of their species, except in distressed or domesticated circumstances. This instinctive behavior, which is certainly a legitimate biological attribute, is what defines species.

    Lions and tigers can never mate, due to the pre-programmed courtship signals that trigger the necessary physiological responses. They are thus not "capable" of interbreeding.

    Performing artificial insemination to create viable offspring constitutes hybridization, but it does not satisfy the definition of breeding, which is a natural activity.

    My point is that the viability of the fertilized ovum is what was once the guideline for definition of a genus. Lion/tiger hybrids can only be created artificially but they are viable and thus the two species belong in the same genus. Lion/bobcat hybrids are not. But this has been completely muddled by the revised genus definitions of the past few decades. I would like to know why housecats and ocelots are now placed in two different genera even though they routinely produce viable, fertile, multi-generational hybrid offpsring.

    I do not see any controversy over the definition of species. Perhaps your argument has merit, but in order to be persuasive you need to expand on your original statement, not merely repeat it.

    I suppose we're veering off into a discussion that belongs on the biology forum. But it relates to some really silly coined names for hybrid animals such as "tigon," "zebrass" and "harlequin macaw," which illustrate a linguistic process.

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  8. IceAgeCivilizations Banned Banned

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    Yes, syngameons, as I've been saying.
     
  9. spuriousmonkey Banned Banned

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    Let me guess. New moderator on the block. Let's test if you can annoy him?


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    Scientific names can be from any language you want them to be. They are just Latinized.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Actually what I have read says that the earliest carnivores were doglike. So the felines, bears, mustelids, hyenas, etc. are, in a sense, descendants of canine ancestors. Nonetheless this does not repudiate the established paradigm of species.

    Neither does the fact that humans (and all primates) actually are descended from shrews!
    You still haven't made your point. Simply repeating yourself is clearly not a response to a request for more information. I had to do my own research into syngameons. Everything I read is consistent with what I learned long ago, which is that populations that we call "species" rarely interbreed in stable, natural circumstances. It takes an ecological upheaval, particularly the kinds for which humans are famous, to generate the motivation to try inter-species dating (in animals) and to provide a new ecological niche for which the hybrids may advantageously compete and survive long enough to create a next generation (in plants but also in animals).
    The ability to interbreed was never the definition of a species. It was the actual occurrence of interbreeding. The fact that populations of distinct species are the rule in nature rather than the exception is testimony to an instinctive preference not to interbreed (in animals) or an evolutionary or environmental advantage for intra-species pollination (in plants).

    When nature is disturbed the exceptions occur which prove the rule. Hybrid plants are most common along roadways, and hybrid animals are most common on the fringe of human settlement.

    The ability to interbreed was always the definition of a genus, not a species. The fact that genera have been redefined so that species can now interbreed up to the family level destroys the integrity of the established definition of genus, but not species..

    Yes, we covered this earlier in the thread. Many of them are simply the proper names of their discoverer, with a Latin grammatical suffix. Wistaria, Poinsettia. Many of the coinages in what the dictionaries call "Modern Latin" are actually from Greek and you can tell from the non-Latin spellings. Drosophilus, rhododendron.
     
  11. IceAgeCivilizations Banned Banned

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    Species are subsets of genera, so since you admit that genera categorization is serioulsy flawed, then species is as well, obviously.
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Regarding the linguistic process of changing the meaning of established scientific words:
    Ice, your logic is just falling apart now. That statement makes no sense at all. Species and genus are defined by two different criteria and the validity of one is only slightly correlated with the validity of the other.

    We might all agree that the musical "species" of rock and roll, reggae, rap, salsa, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, swing and Dixieland are properly defined. But we might still disagree on whether they all fall into the "genus" of jazz.

    Just because I question the validity of assigning the lynx and the bobcat to two different genera, does not raise doubts about them being two distinct species.
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Donkeys and horses can interbreed, but they are not in the same "syngameon".

    (Creationists should use "kind", as "syngameon" is defined by evolutionary relationship).

    Quite possibly chimps and humans could interbreed, at low rates of fertility - most people classify them as two different species, even genera, regardless.

    I'm pretty sure I've seen Greek in scientific names?

    The fungi set the most entertaining problems in nomenclature, with various parts of their life cycles sometimes getting completely different names, and always questions as to what is part of the life cycle of what else. Also algae.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I assume that's why their offspring are almost always sterile. Do you know anything about zebrasses? Is it possible for horses and zebras to hybridize? Inquiring minds want to know.

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    I think absolutely everyone classifies them as two genera. Humans of all present and past species are genus Homo. Chimpanzees and bonobos are genus Pan. I don't know that anyone has tried to do an AI or in vitro cross-fertilization of human sperm and chimp ovum or vice versa. Who wants to volunteer?

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    Yes, I think I mentioned this earlier on the thread. What is called "Modern Latin" coinage in scientific terminology is often a crazy hybrid of Latin and Greek, e.g. "television," or Greek with a Latin grammatical suffix, e.g. "eohipppus."
     
  15. valich Registered Senior Member

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    We just recently had a thorough discussion about hybrids in the Biology & Genetics section called "Interbreeding with Animals" that you can access at http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=62721

    Nowadays you can pretty much name a new found species whatever you want by just adding "ae" or some other Greek or Latin ending to it. I now proclaim myself to be a new species: Homo valichae (not to be confused with a homo!). Afterall, nobody else is similar to, or just like me in the world. And its been so long since I've copulated that I doubt I could interbreed with any other species anymore! :shrug:
     

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