Darwin-L Message Log 6:15 (February 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<6:15>From p_stevens@nocmsmgw.harvard.edu  Thu Feb  3 08:16:36 1994

Date: 3 Feb 1994 09:08:35 U
From: "p stevens" <p_stevens@nocmsmgw.harvard.edu>
Subject: Larval evolution and Linnaean series
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Two responses, to Polly Winsor & Bob O'Hara.

I think the book on animal evolution and hybridisation being responsible for
patterns of similarities in many animal groups - larve seem clearly similar to
one group, adults seems clearly similar to another (and quite different) group
- is by D. I. Williamson, "Larvae and evolution: toward a new zoology."
Chapman & Hall. 1992.  It seems to me that Williamson's idea could be tested by
identifying genes responsible for larval development and looking at phylogenies
suggested by sequence analysis of those genes.  Probably more easily said than

As to Bob's comments on Linnaeus - how fascinating.  There are obviously two
issues here - the kind of information L. was using, and how he organised it.
Cain's paper is very interesting, and the "quinarian" thinking that is evident
in some of Linnaeus work (five ranks in the system, five main parts of the
fructification) are also evident in some of Linnaeus's "occult sources".  That
continuity is evident in L's arrangement of minerals is nice, because Cain
found it within what we would call molluscs (Amer. Malac. Bull. 2: 82. 1983), I
seem to remember that Polly Winsor has noted a distinctive serial arrangement
of some insect groups (Taxon 25: 57-67. 1976), and it is also evident in the
plant/animal boundary" (J. Arnold Arboretum 71:179-220. 1990).

What perhaps becomes of some interest to twentieth century systematists is that
the same catena-like distribution of characters that characterises Linnaeus's
arrangement is evident in Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu's work (Jussieu is the
"father of the (botanical) natural system (sic)", and also an early influence
on Cuvier), and the the young Cuvier discusses relationships in terms of
continuity (and continued to).  Although Cuvier did not believe in the -scala
naturae-, he seems to have allowed a branching continuity.  To the extent that
systematists through the twentieth century recognised relationships by directly
chaining groups, you may well expect to see a similar "Linnaean" pattern of
distribution of characters.

But Adam Smith long ago recognised that the direct linkage of facts was the
procedure adopted by the common man, as opposed to the philosopher...

Peter Stevens

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