1311 splitters and lumpers 1312 is classification an

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1.3.11 “Splitters” and “lumpers” 1.3.12 Is classification an art or a science? 1.3.13 What is a species? 1.3.14 But, what is a species concept? 1.3.15 What is the nature of the immediately superior ranks? 1.3.16 Infraspecific taxa 1.3.1 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: ARTIFICIAL CLASSIFICATION SYSTEMS Biodiversity studies, or taxonomy/systematics, are a very old science. Development in this field went hand in hand with the voyages of discovery. Systematics can be regarded as the broad field that deals with the variety of life on earth. Ancient classification systems: Preliterate humans All preliterate societies named and classified useful plants. Plants fell into the following categories: building material edible medicinal poisonous (eg fish or arrow poisons) household (fuel, implements etc) These classifications belong to ethnotaxonomy and folk taxonomy and they are still found in most societies today. Early botanical work was part of the oral tradition, and it was only much later that it was recorded in writing. The oldest known botanical work, by Pen Tsao (written 4800 years ago), was completed by the Chinese emperor Chien Nung. In this work the uses of 365 kinds of plants are listed. Early Western civilisations (300 BC to AD 1500) Theophrastus (370–285 BC) A Greek disciple of Aristotle and Plato, he was the first scientist to classify plants and is known as the “father of botany”. He inherited Aristotle’s garden and classified the 480 plant taxa in the garden into the following four groups on the basis of growth habit (rather than on the traditional method that was based on uses):
herbs undershrubs shrubs trees He distinguished between flowering and nonflowering plants and classified flowering plants on the basis of the following: flower morphology position of the ovary types of inflorescence He established the natural process of classification and the laws underpinning it. He described over 500 species, including the genus Asparagus , and his classifications are still used today. He did the best botanical work of his time and his contribution was not improved on until after the middle ages. Around the same time an Indian scientist, Parasora, published a botanical work in Sanskrit under the title Vrikshavyrreda . After Theophrastus and Parasora there was a period of 150 years during which there were no further developments in botanical science. Most books published merely contained information that the authors had gathered. Caius Plinius Secundus, “Pliny the Elder” (AD 23–79) A Roman soldier and naturalist. He attempted to compile an account of all the natural history known in the world at that time. Historia naturalis consists of 37 volumes and is regarded as the world’s first encyclopaedia. Nine books deal with plants. Pliny named the genus Euphorbia after the king of Nigeria, for example.

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