Nomenclatural stability does not justify recognition of paraphyletic taxa: A response to Scherz et al. (2016)

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2017 Jun;111:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.03.016. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Peloso et al. (2015: PELOSO) published a comprehensive phylogenetic study of the frog family Microhylidae, which resulted in the discovery that several taxa were not monophyletic. To remedy this, a series of nomenclatural changes were proposed (several generic synonymies and two new subfamilies named). A recent study published in this journal by Scherz et al. (2016: SCHERZ), provided a novel phylogeny for the Malagasy subfamily Cophylinae. SCHERZ dispute the analyses and taxonomic conclusions of PELOSO. Their study is, however, based on substantial reduction of data from the PELOSO study, limited addition of new data, and different analytical methods. In spite of the fact that their own results are consistent with the taxonomy of PELOSO, SCHERZ reject that conservative taxonomy and suggest the revalidation of Platypelis (from the synonymy of Cophyla), the revalidation of Stumpffia (from the synonymies of Rhombophryne), and the creation of at least two new genera (only one named therein). In doing so, SCHERZ accept the recognition of likely paraphyletic taxa, with Stumpffia paraphyletic in their parsimony analysis. Herein, we provide a response to several points raised in SCHERZ: (1) we discuss issues with their interpretation (and selective use) of available phylogenetic and phenotypic evidence; (2) and provide a new phylogenetic analysis of all the data in PELOSO and SCHERZ combined. In the new analysis Stumpffia is paraphyletic with respect to Rhombophryne, whereas Cophyla and Platypelis are both monophyletic and sister taxa. We provide a case for the use of the taxonomy suggested in PELOSO.

Keywords: Amphibia; Cophylinae; Madagascar; Microhylidae; Phylogeny; Taxon-Naming Criteria (TNC).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / classification*
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Phylogeny*
  • Terminology as Topic*