Taxonomy and phylogeny reconstruction: Two distinct research agendas in systematics
Wortley AH., Bennett JR., Scotland RW.
The state of systematics, a vital biological discipline investigating fundamental questions about the earth's biological diversity, is currently the subject of concern amongst the UK scientific and political communities. The scope of this complex field is redefined in terms of a number of linked agendas. Currently, key areas of research can be divided into the reconstruction of phylogeny and taxonomy, here defined as the description, delimitation and inventory of species. Molecular data have great potential to elucidate the relationships between taxa and, together with recent methodological advances, have instigated a resurgence of interest in phylogeny reconstruction. A literature survey indicates a decline in interest and investment in taxonomy, as defined above, an activity for which morphological data supply most information. We highlight the need to restore the balance in activity and profile between phylogeny reconstruction and morphology-based taxonomy, to redress the plight of systematics and dependent biological research.