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beta taxonomy

  • 1) A taxonomy built upon as wide a basis of morphological and physiological facts as possible.

    Turrill (1935) has suggested that while accepting the older invaluable taxonomy, based on structure, and conveniently designated “alpha”, it is possible to glimpse a far-distant taxonomy built up on as wide a basis of morphological and physiological facts as possible, and one in which “place is found for all observational and experimental data relating, even if indirectly, to the constitution, subdivision, origin and behaviour of species and other taxonomic groups”. Ideals can, it may be said, never be completely realized. They have, however, the great value of acting as permanent stimulants, and if we have some, even vague, ideal of an “omega” taxonomy we may progress a little way down the Greek alphabet. Some of us please ourselves by thinking we are now groping in a “beta” taxonomy.

    Turrill, W.B. (1938). The expansion of taxonomy with special reference to Spermatophyta. Biological Reviews 13, 342-373: 346-7.

  • 2) A taxonomy above the species level.

    An understanding of the biological meaning of variation and of the evolutionary origin of groups of related species is even more important for the second stage of taxonomic activity, the sorting of species into groups of relatives (“taxa”) and their arrangement in a hierarchy of higher categories. This activity is what the term classification denotes; it is also referred to as beta taxonomy.

    Mayr, E. (1968). The role of systematics in biology: The study of all aspects of the diversity of life is one of the most important concerns in biology. Science 159, 595-599: 599.