Posts Tagged ‘clade’

S. melanogaster? WTF?!?

April 22, 2008

The newest post on Evolgen breaks an interesting story: the genus Drosophila is in trouble.

You probably remember Drosophila as that adorable mass of writhing, squirming maggots and fruit flies you tended in your high school biology or university genetics class. The most well known representative of the genus is the common fruit fly, D. melanogaster, friend of geneticists the world over. Unfortunately, as the article points out, the genus is not only too large, but is paraphyletic. This means that the most recent common ancestor of all members of the genus is shared by members of other genera. Drosophila is not a good clade. Since our taxonomic system is based on evolutionary relationships, this is a problem.

The post indicates that the most likely course of action will be to split the genus into smaller genera. Since the genus is already split into subgenera, those subgenera will probably simply be promoted one taxonomic level. This means, however, that Drosophila melanogaster will become Sophophora melanogaster!

This doesn’t really change anything, of course. They’re still the same animal. I simply find it personally interesting when the scientific community gets shaken up over things like this. It’s important to keep the taxonomic system consistent, and in line with the best estimate of evolutionary relationships between and among taxa, but it seems like the most resounding consequences of this change will be that high school students will have to memorize how to spell Sophophora instead.

Now we just need to put some weight behind this proposal.