Blackwell Publishing

Taxonomic schools


The phenetic and phylogenetic principles are the two fundamental types of biological classification, but there are more than two schools of thought about how classification should be carried out. We can discuss three main schools.

1. Numerical phenetics. This is the most influential modern school of phenetic classification. The terms phenetics, numerical phenetics and numerical taxonomy are used interchangeably.

2. Cladism is the common term for classification based on the phylogenetic principle, although the term phylogenetic systematics has been used.

3. Evolutionary classification: a synthesis of phenetic and phylogenetic methods.

The biologist Richard Dawkins explains the difference between the phenetic and phylogenetic principles.

Table: phenetic, evolutionary, and cladistic classification can be distinguished by the characters they use to define groups, and the kinds of groups they recognize.

How should we decide which school of classification is the best?

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