Talk:Taxonomic rank

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Articles merged: for previous discussion, see Talk:Rank (botany).


a) the ending "-odd" is, well, odd and almost certainly wrong (I never saw it before)

b) "Infrafamily" (botany) = "tribe" (zoology)? Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 17:26, 26 December 2007 (UTC) huh??? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:11, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Don't know about botanical infrafamilies, but in zoology tribes and infrafamilies are distinct. And, yes, the ending is -odd and I've supplied the reference. I suspect someone realised they were running out of Latin/Greek terminations and decided it would be cool to form them from Welsh or something. Gnostrat (talk) 16:56, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

Cleanup required: Table of terms in various languages[edit]

The table of terms in various languages needs to be cleaned up. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:30, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

That table has arabic characters (I think just noise) in the section Japansese, and the Japanese kanji's do not match the chinese ones. --Squidonius (talk) 02:16, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Before effort is put into editing. Why is there a table of taxonomic terms in the English wiki? (talk) 07:58, 29 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm not really sure what you mean by that question. These ranks (some of them anyway) are used in English-language taxonomic literature as well as in Wikipedia classifications and taxoboxes. Why shouldn't an article about them include a table? All the same, on English Wikipedia there's no need for them to be listed in any languages except Latin and English.
I'm more worried about all these unsourced intercalary terms — midkingdom, interkingdom, claudius, etc. Over at Linnaean taxonomy I've been meticulously building up a table of ranks based on cited sources and there are major discrepancies between that table and this one, which is particularly frustrating when I would like to merge that section of Linnaean taxonomy into this article. I doubt that I've got all the details right on the other article (if only because I've put it together from a patchwork of sources for want of a single source which has the joined-up picture) but it would be useful to have some citations for the ranks here so as to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of each table.
A further problem with this article is the inclusion of bacteriological terms like serotype or serovar, biovar etc. If you consult the relevant articles, it is evident that these are not taxonomic ranks but different kinds of grouping at the same rank, in other words, different ways of defining a subspecies. I would delete the lot but I don't have the expertise to know whether there are some actual ranks mixed in among them.
In short, I recommend (a) citations and (b) calling in the experts. Gnostrat (talk) 17:50, 23 March 2008 (UTC)
But first things first. Looks like removing the unnecessary non-English columns won't be controversial and would need doing eventually, so I've done it. Next, the English could be improved while we're waiting for somebody to verify these ranks. Gnostrat (talk) 00:27, 24 March 2008 (UTC)


I'm proposing that the Taxonomic ranks section of Linnaean taxonomy be merged in. Listing all the ranks in the latter article is an exercise in the superfluous. Once the discrepancies between that list and the one in this article have been ironed out, the full table can be consolidated here and, perhaps, replaced in Linnaean taxonomy with a simple summary of the main ranks. This would prepare a shorter and more manageable Linnaean taxonomy for eventual merger with Scientific classification. I am hoping the merge template will also attract some notice to the need for expert attention over here.

I can't see any need for maintaining separate short articles for the zoological and botanical ranks, either. The two systems have far more in common than divides them, some material appears in both articles, and they are better treated together for comparison. (The articles are misleadingly titled as well, since the botanical system is also used in mycology and the zoological one also applies to protozoa.) So I may be bold and merge those in even sooner. Gnostrat (talk) 04:00, 4 April 2008 (UTC)

Merged. --Snek01 (talk) 21:40, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

Let me be bolder: why not merge Taxonomic ranks, Linnaean taxonomy and Biological classification? They all are part of the same topics, arn't they? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:16, 1 April 2011 (UTC)

If memory serves, this article contains material that was moved from the other two as they were overlong and cluttered. We had long and involved discussions about which articles to merge with which: see Talk:Biological classification#Two Proposed Changes and the two sections which follow that. Linnaean taxonomy is not the same as biological classification: it is one system of biological classification, and alternatives have been proposed, so it's probably best maintained as a separate article (like Cladistics, which can be applied within a Linnaean hierarchy of ranks but can also treat them as irrelevant). Gnostrat (talk) 00:59, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

"usable only in a realm of fiction"[edit]

I'm concerned that the wording "usable only in a realm of fiction" is not encyclopedic. It drips with contempt; an encyclopedia should be 10 times drier. Surely there's a more moderately worded way of getting that point across? I don't understand how it doesn't show the relative positions of many ranks used currently. I see many taxonomic ranks, and the realative positions make sense to me. What is the problem, exactly? -GTBacchus(talk) 17:48, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

Actually, I agree that "usable only in a realm of fiction" is not particular encyclopedic. However as descriptions go, it is dry as bone. The other wording "The following is a synthesis, from most general to most specific, of many categories that are in current use. Such a list is never used for any practical purpose, as different ranks are used in different areas of biology, in ways that are not always compatible across the board." is even less encyclopedic, its main problem is that it not nearly accurate.
I guess that the basic problem is that the list itself is unencyclopedic (as well as inaccurate). It presents a new synthesis, not found Out There, which is just what WP:NOR forbids: "any unpublished analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position. This means that Wikipedia is not the place to publish your own opinions, experiences, or arguments." - Dendrid (talk) 15:21, 29 March 2009 (UTC)
Then why keep it around at all? -GTBacchus(talk) 17:16, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
I'd be interested to know how, if you're going to list these ranks at all in a joined-up, coherent way, can you not do synthesis? Presumably, you'd go to one single comprehensive source that lists every rank that's ever been invented and just follow that. And as far as I know, there isn't one. Nor is the hierarchy Out There in the shape of a complete formal classification of any organism, but it never has been. If you're working with "protists", you have classes floating around without phyla or kingdoms to put them in. If it's velvet worms, you don't have classes, or orders either.
As the editor largely responsible for putting this synthesis together, I don't see the problem. It's a table of ranks that are available for potential use. There are no opinions or arguments. There is no one "position" that is advanced. The interrelationship of the ranks and their usage are described as I found them in the sources. Where the usages vary or contradict, or where different sources/disciplines apply different ranking systems in parallel, I've acknowledged it in the notes. I haven't harmonized or artificially ironed out the mess. In fact I've been so scrupulous about it that I've faithfully followed the sources even where I believe they are wrong.
For example, the whole sequence inserted between order and suborder is counter-intuitive and makes no sense to me in that position. (I strongly suspect it belongs between the infraorder and the family group.) But that's the way it is in the ornithischian classification that I reference, and you can probably blame it on certain cavalier schools of cladists, since they are not above inserting cohorts inside orders and classes inside families, to the consternation of anybody who expects the Linnaean hierarchy to actually convey meaningful information.
Yes, it's a synthesis but it isn't original research, because it doesn't interpret the sources and it doesn't advance a position. I'm more worried, and not a little intrigued, by that enigmatic comment about its inaccuracy. Apart from the example I've just mentioned, would you like to elaborate? Gnostrat (talk) 01:52, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
I was looking at the box of Taxonomic Ranks on Tribe, and it had one that said "Alliance." I clicked on it and was redirected here, with no mention of "Alliance" anywhere on the page or on this talk page. What does that mean? Floppybelly (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 23:28, 3 June 2010 (UTC).
Five years later, I lean toward Floppybelly's view on this. All of WP is synthesis. What it isn't is novel synthesis. There is nothing novel about observing that Source A puts Rank 2 below Rank 1, and Source B puts Ranks 2.1 and 2.2 between Ranks 2 and 3, and both plus other sources then continue with Ranks 3 and 4, then us putting them in one list for a specific illustrative purpose, without implying wrongly that specific fields use our list. This is exactly the same process we use for constructing paragraphs from chronological details provided by various sources with different views on an event, e.g. an election or a court case, without implying that our chronology is that specified by any particular source. As I said in a thread below, there are two warring goals here, and the solution is to have multiple charts:
  1. The official hierarchies as given by the nomenclature codes.
  2. A comparative chart that helps readers understand that a "form" in zoology and biology are at different taxonomic levels, and exactly where.
This can probably only be done by excluding cladistic intrusions like "cohorts" and cladist "classes" that do not correspond to traditional ones, until Out There settles on a coherent system. The cladistic approach is a different system recycling some of the same terminology but using it differently, and the entire structure of the thing isn't the same. This needs to be made clear to the reader by treating the cladistic approach in a separate section.
PS: It would probably help for the second chart to be in a table instead of being given as a hierarchical list. This would allow us to use columns to better identify fields, and colors to distinguish current formal, obsolete, and informal ranks. A whole block of the table would be devoted to botanical lower-level ranks, many of which (grex, forma specialis, etc.) are limited to particular subfields.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  11:32, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

'sub-' vs 'infra'[edit]

I'm an interested amateur, but not trained in this field. In copy-editing Theraphosidae, I became aware of a conflict between the term relating it to Mygalomorphae (sub-order) and infraorder as used in the top section of Dipluridae. Can I ask whether someone with the necessary education/expertise can sort this one out, please. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 07:11, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

I'm sorry, what's the problem?-- (talk) 23:25, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

The problem is that trained biologists don't know where terms like "infraorder" are coming from, and Wikipedia doesn't define them. Wiktionary definitions sound spurious. "Infra" is used to mean "within", so "infrageneric" doesn't mean at the rank of "infragenus", it means at any rank lower than genus.Nadiatalent (talk) 02:00, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Correction, I see that infra and parv are defined in the zoological code. This is clearly a major confusion between zoological and botanical codes. "Infrageneric" in the botanical code, means any subdivision of a genus, "infraspecific" means any subdivision of a species, etc. No wonder the Biocode effort floundered! Nadiatalent (talk) 03:32, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Agreed, but they need to try again! That said, the terms aren't as confused as they seem. "Infrageneric" is an adjective, meaning "below genus rank"; "infragenus" is a rank meaning "rank below genus". I forget how "infragenus" and "subgenus" relate, and can't be arsed to go check, but I'm skeptical it can't be sorted out. The OR problem we do want to watch out for is the application of zoological ranks to plants, etc., and vice versa. Even within botany, some terms only apply in mycology or whatever, and not generally. I can see that some enthused persons might want to go add things like forma specialis as a parameter in zoological taxoboxes, but it would be wrong.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  11:15, 8 September 2015 (UTC)


Is "alliance" a taxonomic rank? I see it on this template after subtribe but before genus. This is not mentioned in the taxonomic rank list on this article. If it is a rank, it should be added to this article. If not it should be taken off the template. Kittenono (talk) 22:12, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

I've taken it out, but there are more problems than just this one. I've commented about "infra" above, and a bit more at Template talk:Taxonomic ranks. The problem seems to be widespread within Wikipedia and Wiktionary. I'd like to see these pages trimmed to just the ranks that are recognized in the botanical, zoological, and bacteriological codes of nomenclature! Nadiatalent (talk) 02:08, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
The problem with doing that is that it removes information people need. What we should have is a list of the formal ranks (not necessarily even in this article, though it seems a good place for it), and another showing the total hierarchy scheme, including the informal taxa. I've been reading this stuff for something like 20 years and I still learn new things about obscure taxonomic levels pretty frequently. This info should be centralized here. It shouldn't take a WP reader two years of digging around in phytopathology reports and biology dictionaries to learn that a "biological race" is the exact same thing as a "physiological race" phytopathology, which is not a "physiologic race", but equivalent to a "forma specialis" (yet with different naming style), and at the same level as other modern uses of "race" in biology, and they're all informal, and they're all more-or-less at the same level as subspecies, but not 100% of the time [deep breath]. We're supposed to do that work for them, and that mess can compressed into a simple, concise expression here pretty easily in our longer chart.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  11:08, 8 September 2015 (UTC)
I have often heard the term "alliance" used in discussions of orchids, and it appears on the Taxonomy of the Orchidaceae page extensively, as well as in numerous taxoboxes for orchids; in this context, it seems to be a rank between subtribe and genus, as the taxonomic rank template formerly indicated. Some quick Googling dug up an article that appears to use the term in the context of genetic studies within the Orchidaceae: [[1]]. I worry that the removal of alliances from the template may have been premature. Does anyone know of other plant families that have "alliances" as well? Nighthawk4211 (talk) 21:50, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Grex is also specific to orchids, last I looked. People with an aim to keeping the list here simple should probably not be removing field specific taxonomic details from infoboxes. The needs of the infoboxes and the needs of this article are not the same.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  11:08, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Forma specialis and race[edit]

Forma specialis is not equivalent to subspecies, though it is infraspecific. I've seen multiple f. sp. identified below the subspecies level (but the source in question isn't much use here, because the entire genus in that case keeps getting overhauled, with a lot of mergers between entire species, with some even jumping genera). I have yet to find any sources using it lower still, so it appears that it needs to go as the line in the chart immediately below subspecies, or as an "Informal: ..." addition at the same level. It's equivalent to race (biology) (zoology, botany). Race may be given more specifically as physiological race (a.k.a. "biological race" in some older sources, but not to be confused with physiologic race which = cryptic species), in mycology and phytopathology. (I have not found physiological race elsewhere, and Academic Pr. Dict. of Sci. & Tech. limits it to mycology.) There are other more specific forms of race, but they're at the same level as the basic term race, which is equivalent to f. sp. All are informal. Of these, only forma specialis is interpolated into the scientific name (after a "f. sp."), and it follows the Latin rules for epithets: "Puccinia graminis f. sp. avenae", an example from Forma specialis and Stem rust. By contrast, race (of whatever sort) is given after the binomial, and usually after the word "race", with no special markup; it is arbitrary and often consists of an alphanumeric code: "Podosphaera xanthii race S" (from Cohen 2004, cited at Race (biology)). What often happens is phytopathologists identify and label races at a much faster clip than mycologists can describe, classify, and semi-formally name them. It's possible for the same organism to have both a race designation and a f. sp. epithet, and even for a population with an f. sp. epithet to be later reorganized in race taxonomy, e.g. split or merged. This "fast-paced" use of race is different from the use in zoology, which is generally referring to geographically, morphologically, or just chromosomally distinct populations within a species that cannot be or simply have not been more specifically described and classified; it seems rarely applied to mammals and other large animals, but is often still used to informally and perhaps temporarily classify populations of insects adapted to specific food sources or other environmental factors within the same area (i.e., it's not always geographic at all). There's also historic use of "race" to refer to domestic breeds, but this has been abandoned in English.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:58, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

PS: I found an example of race (= f. sp. in different notation) being used below the subspecies level: Fusarium madeupname subsp. madeupname race 1 infects watermelons, while Fusarium madeupname subsp. madeupname race 2 parasitizes cucumbers, and so on.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:27, 9 September 2015 (UTC)