Poor Taxonomic Sampling Undermines Nomenclatural Stability: A Reply to Roxo et Al. (2019)

Zootaxa. 2019 Dec 2;4701(5):zootaxa.4701.5.10. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4701.5.10.


A recent study based on genomic data by Roxo et al. (2019) provided a phylogeny of the Loricariidae, the largest catfish family and second largest Neotropical fish family with approximately 1,000 species. The study represents a valuable and innovative contribution for understanding higher-level relationships within the family. The phylogenetic tree inferred by Roxo et al. (2019) thoroughly corroborates the monophyly and relationships of most currently accepted subfamilies of Loricariidae, based on a fair taxon sampling (nearly 14% of the species in the family) representing most genera of each but one of the subfamilies, the Lithogeninae, the sister-group of the remaining members of the family (Pereira & Reis, 2017; Reis et al., 2017). In addition to a hypothesis of relationships, Roxo et al. (2019) also proposed a series of lower-level taxonomic changes, which are deemed premature considering that the taxonomic sampling of the study targeted higher-level clades, and go against one of the pillars of biological classification: nomenclatural stability (e.g., Heterick & Majer, 2018; Beninger & Backeljau, 2019). Here we (1) discuss implications of inadequate taxonomic sampling as a basis for changes in classification of species; (2) explain why the taxonomic sampling design of Roxo et al. (2019) is inadequate for the proposed nomenclatural changes; and (3) advocate that changes to classifications must be grounded on phylogenies with dense sampling of taxa at the relevant level.

Keywords: General.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catfishes*
  • Phylogeny