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Classification and evolution - What are the three main schools of classification?


Evolutionary classification

Evolutionary classification is a synthesis of the phenetic and phylogenetic principles. The school therefore describes itself as synthetic, drawing on the advantages, and avoiding the shortcomings, of the two purer schools of cladism and numerical phenetics. However, for the same reason it has been criticized for doing the opposite - for retaining the philosophical shortcomings of phenetic classification and adding to them the practical uncertainties of phylogenetic inference.

Evolutionary classification permits paraphyletic groups (which are allowed in phenetic but not in cladistic classification) and monophyletic groups (which are allowed in both cladistic and phenetic classification). Since it defines groups by homologies and ignores homoplasies it excludes polyphyletic groups (which are banned from cladistic classification but permitted in phenetic classification).

The school of evolutionary classification was developed by the biologist Ernst Mayr (pictured opposite, on the right).

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