Updating classifications to reflect monophyly

March 6, 2013
Cenchrus advena (Wipff & Veldkamp) Morrone, one of the 1,179 grass species that have changed their name in the move towards a phylogenetic classification. The species was called Pennisetum advena Wipff & Veldkamp in traditional systems of grass classification. Credit: M.S.Vorontsova

The move from a "traditional" to a "phylogenetic" classification of grasses (Poaceae) has resulted in 10% of species having their scientific name changed.

Classification systems are constantly changing to keep up to date with increasing knowledge. We are currently in a period of faster change as the plant classification is realigned into monophyletic groups following the widespread availability of . But how many species change their name as the classification is updated?

Previously it has not been possible to quantify this, but now new name database projects in the grasses (Poaceae) have enabled a direct comparison between a "traditional" and a "phylogenetic" one. GrassBase contains a list of all Poaceae species as they were classified in 1986. GrassWorld is a copy of GrassBase updated to incorporate conclusions from all published phylogenetic reconstructions.

In a study published in Taxon, all species names accepted by GrassBase and GrassWorld were compared and species that were moved to a different genus due to phylogenetic classification realignment were counted. Out of 11,500 accepted 1,179 have been moved to a different genus to follow monophyletic groups, a total of around 10%.

Of course the classification is still changing and some parts of the are more thoroughly studied than others. A subset of species in the well known tribes Paniceae and Paspaleae was also analysed. Out of 2,070 species in the Paniceae and Paspaleae 362 moved to a different genus: 17%.

If other are similar to the grasses then the transition from a traditional to a phylogenetic classification system is expected to lead to name changes in around 10-20% of the species.

Explore further: Genomics throws species definition in question for microbes

More information: Vorontsova, M. S. & Simon, B.K. (2012). Updating classifications to reflect monophyly: 10 to 20 percent of species names change in Poaceae. Taxon 61: 735-746.

Related Stories

Genomics throws species definition in question for microbes

March 26, 2007

Until a decade ago, scientists categorized microorganisms almost exclusively by their physical characteristics: how they looked, what they ate, and the by-products they produced. With the advent of genomic sequencing and ...

Linear sequences for seed plants

December 21, 2011

Scientists have been working out the best way to arrange plant specimens in herbaria and other collections so that their order best reflects evolutionary relationships.

Scientists reclassify eukaryotic microorganisms

October 8, 2012

One of the biggest scientific challenges is the classification of the natural world, especially the protists, which are eukaryotic microorganisms. While the classification proposed by Sina Adl et al. (2005) was conservative ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.