Maybe the difficulties and strife in Haworthia classification is that we do not know what it is that taxonomists do. Taxonomy is the academic discipline of defining groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics and giving names to those groups. The scientists that do taxonomy are called taxonomists. The names taxonomists give to species don’t just tell us what they are called, but also tell us about how they are related to one another. In the following article Bruce Bayer shares his views that Haworthia taxonomy should be about more than identification and descriptions, rather the interpretation of the characters that reveal genetic relationships and evolutionary pathways.
– Lawrence Loucka
Genetic history – the place in Haworthia classification.
By M. B. Bayer
This is a huge subject and I cannot by aptitude or knowledge attempt to cover it fully. However, it is so basic to plant classification and Latin naming that we all need to have some background understanding. The entire object of classification boils down to arranging living (and once living things) in a scheme that follows the theory of an evolution from simple life forms to the present array of creatures. This is because it is thought to be the logical way in which knowledge of the said creatures should be organised i.e. according to the way in which they travelled the creative way. All classification is simply a way of organising information so that one can generalise from the singular to the plural.
Whether one believes in such a progressive process or in a spontaneous divine creative event does not matter. All the evidence points to change of some kind and if we call it evolution does not alter anything. It is argued that there is in fact no direct proof that, say, man evolved from a primitive primate. That may well be so, but there are many fossil primates that are speculated to fill that gap. The case is that evolution is a scientific hypothesis and science does not, or cannot claim, that this is proven. A scientific hypothesis simple stands as a possibility or probability of something known. Such a hypothesis can only be proven untrue, and then it is replaced with a new hypothesis that stands as the accepted truth.
Whatever, the ultimate truth of the matter, classification in science is directed at reflecting how the different life forms are related to each other in respect of change? In the acceptance of evolution the process of change is the genetic history of the organisms and is referred to as the phylogeny. It is often depicted as a branching tree with the branches originating low on the trunk as ancient origin, to terminal branching for recent.