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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 22, 1999; 96(13): 7358–7363.
PMCID: PMC22090
Evolution

Proposal for a standardized temporal scheme of biological classification for extant species

Abstract

With respect to conveying useful comparative information, current biological classifications are seriously flawed because they fail to (i) standardize criteria for taxonomic ranking and (ii) equilibrate assignments of taxonomic rank across disparate kinds of organisms. In principle, these problems could be rectified by adopting a universal taxonomic yardstick based on absolute dates of the nodes in evolutionary trees. By using procedures of temporal banding described herein, a simple philosophy of biological classification is proposed that would retain a manageable number of categorical ranks yet apply them in standardized fashion to time-dated phylogenies. The phylogenetic knowledge required for a time-standardized nomenclature arguably may emerge in the foreseeable future from vast increases in multilocus DNA sequence information (coupled with continued attention to phylogeny estimation from traditional systematic data). By someday encapsulating time-dated phylogenies in a familiar yet modified hierarchical ranking scheme, a temporal-banding approach would improve the comparative information content of biological classifications.

Keywords: systematics, taxonomy, molecular clocks, comparative biology

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences

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