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Aphyly: identifying the flotsam and jetsam of systematics

Williams, David M., Ebach, Malte C.
Cladistics 2018 v.34 no.4 pp. 459-466
monophyly, paraphyly, synapomorphy, taxonomic revisions
Many taxon names in any classification will be composed of taxa that have yet to be demonstrated as monophyletic, that is, characterized by synapomorphies. Such taxa might be called aphyletic, the flotsam and jetsam in systematics, simply meaning they require taxonomic revision. The term aphyly is, however, the same as, if not identical to, Hennig's “Restkörper” and Bernardi's merophyly. None of these terms gained common usage. We outline Hennig's use of “Restkörper” and Bernardi's use of merophyly and compare it to aphyly. In our view, application of aphyly would avoid the oft made assumption that when a monophyletic group is discovered from within an already known and named taxon, then the species left behind are rendered paraphyletic. By identifying the flotsam and jetsam in systematics, we can focus on taxa in need of attention and avoid making phylogenetic faux pas with respect to their phylogenetic status.