GCG 2017 - Classification meeting March

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Classification meeting, 2 March 2017



  • Andrew Hipp
  • Antonio Marcial Escudero Lirio
  • Eric Roalson
  • Isabel Larridon
  • Janet Lumsden
  • Leo Bruederle
  • Muhammad Qasim Hayat
  • Pedro Jimenez
  • Santi Martin
  • Tamara Villaverde
  • Uzma


  • Andrew Hipp
  • Jeremy Bruhl
  • Dave Simpson
  • Kerry Ford
  • Bruce Ford


  1. Classification mechanics: using the spreadsheet
  2. Assignment of groups that have no lead
  3. Figuring out how the paper is structured. The main issue is how the clades and sections are characterized. We need to figure out the format of treatments for each clade / section. These are diagnoses where possible, loose characterizations when that is the best we can do. That said, what characters do we want to provide for each group? How consistent do these need to be, and how detailed? This conversation will have to get us to the point where we have an agreement on the format of the descriptions / diagnoses / narratives about each clade. Alternative possibilities:
    1. Parallel descriptions, so we can compare across all groups. The argument for this is that we want to identify synapomorphies, and it will be difficult to do if we don’t have parallel descriptions.
    2. Something more general, so that the project gets done in a timely manner. The argument for this is that this is a framework paper, a first step, and we want to establish a guide for future work.
    3. A hybrid: where we find that there is a formal group that can be done readily, we do parallel descriptions, but we don’t worry about the groups that are messier
    4. A core set of characters that we will try to describe across all clades, but allow a more relaxed characterization of each clade

Discussion notes

Classification spreadsheet

Can we distinguish DNA from the big tree vs other data? Some taxa from side studies will not show up in the big tree. The spreadsheet will be the key supplement in this paper, and key for all species


  • California Aulocystis clade -- Eric has drafted this, so it is started
  • People will need to work through these. Please take untaken clades if you can!

Format of the paper and descriptions

Eric has started with a group that he knows relatively well and wrote these relatively quickly. No one has given feedback on these yet, so please take them as a very preliminary example structure. They are a sample of what kind of detail we might go into in this paper. Sections:

An overview of what the clade is, what its circumscription is, a justification of its name and why it bears recognizing
Known sectional names 
Preliminary overview of what sections are applicable to this clade, and nomenclatural discussion.
Need not be comprehensive, but if possible, this should serve to diagnose the clade relative to other species that are possible but not part of the clade. This is morphological notes as much as anything. Dave points out that calling it "morphology" may be setting expectations wrongly... perhaps something like "recognition"? Kerry suggests looking at recent work on the evolution of the Compositae; there are sections in there that are somewhat more informal and may mirror what we are trying to do. "Systematics, Evolution and Biogeography of Compositae", ed. Funk, Stuessy. Bruce points out that this will be necessarily uneven, as e.g. Phyllostachyae is quite straightforward, whereas core Carex is a messy one. We should be able to flag difficult clades for future research.
Geographic distribution and ecology

Different clades / sections could be gone into in greater or less detail, but this is about the level of detail we want. Where people have delved deeply into the details of clades and sections, it would make more sense for the authors to publish that as a detailed study of that group, rather than burying that in this huge multi-authored paper. There are about 72 higher-level names.

Marcia points out that while we want this level of detail, we want to be as parallel as possible, but that some clades will need more detail.

Pedro: can we come up with a core set of traits we want to include in every description? DISCUSSION: There is a risk that having such a set of characters is not necessary, because every clade will have different characters that are needed for diagnosis. Some clades won't even have a good description. Some clades are so heterogeneous, it's not worth it... but a short synopsis will be helpful.

Dave points out that many species names we have are not the accepted name in WCSP ... what do we do about this? Dave can help with this in whatever way. Bruce: this checklist is dynamic, isn't it? Dave: yes... it was updated recently, but a batch of Cyperaceae names wasn't in there in a recent update. Where we don't have an opinion, we'll default to the World Checklist, but we'll make changes where folks deem appropriate. Dave also points out that geographic distribution is available for every species, and we could aggregate these up to clade. *** ANYONE HAVE A MASTERS STUDENT WHO WOULD LIKE TO WORK ON THIS? 72 NICE MAPS ?? ***

Santi: We could use short diagnosis for sections, and Eric's document for informal clades.

Marcia: Let's think back to the goals and readership of the paper. If we do some things with more detail, the document risks coming off as overly authoritative, and people may overinterpret what we are trying to do in the paper. The idea is to generate research and fill out holes, rather than the definitive answer.

Is there a consensus, then, that we keep the descriptions skeletal, as in Eric's example, and allow authors to publish more detailed papers on their respective groups?

MOSTLY YES... but Santi advocates that we establish a model for sections. Sebastian can do one for Racemosae.

Question about sections of the description... anything else needed?

  • Adding ecology to geography
  • Nomenclature: one of the points of this section is to point out that we haven't solved all the problems, and these should be brought out in particular

Feedback is important, and we'll need to edit one another's descriptions. These will have to go through more than one round of editing.

By next meeting, group agrees to have drafted treatments. We'll circulate a few days before the meeting.

PLEASE WRITE YOUR DRAFTS AS SEPARATE DOCUMENTS, NAMED WITH THE FORMAT cladeName_lastNameOfAuthor_v1 ... or whatever version it is. Please upload to the folder CLADE.SECTION.DESCRIPTIONS at your convenience, so we can start providing each other with feedback.

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