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Some Paradoxes in Taxonomy with Reference to the Protista

Rousseau H. Flower
Journal of Paleontology
Vol. 30, No. 3 (May, 1956), pp. 700-706
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1300301
Page Count: 7
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Some Paradoxes in Taxonomy with Reference to the Protista
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Abstract

Evolution is a process of gradual and sometimes devious changes. Specializations in any large group may depart from the definitions which we have set up for recognition of the group in general. Where there are no transitions between major groups, relationships are inferrential or uncertain; where they are known, the taxonomist sometimes challenges the distinctness of the groups. These paradoxes result from the classification of organisms into discrete departments, when in reality evolution produced gradual change. Some extreme modifications are placed phyletically only on the basis of relationships shown in restricted ontogenetic stages; omission of these stages is possible, and may well account for some small groups of seemingly isolated position. Emphasis is placed upon morphological simplification accompanying tiny size, parasitism, or both. It has been recognized since the days of Haeckel, that the plant-animal distinction is a mere fiction when applied to primitive organisms. The use of the Protista for such forms in the Treatise of Invertebrate Paleontology, is a formal taxonomic expression of a long recognized reality, and serves to avoid essentially artificial procedural difficulties. Recent criticisms of the procedure do not appear to be valid. The relationships of primitive organisms are reviewed. It is evident that the plant-animal transition occurs several times, and is phyletic in the Mastigophora, probably homeomorphic elsewhere. Though the use of Protista presents some anomalies--as will any major group--it should be welcomed as a taxonomic recognition of real relationships which have long been generally accepted.

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