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Nematode systematics: past, present and future

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image of Nematology
For more content, see Nematologica.

A brief overview is given of nematode taxonomy since its beginnings in the second half of the 19th century. Most of the work concerned α-taxonomy, but in the thirties and subsequently from the sixties several classifications have been proposed. Since the eighties phylogenetic systematics was introduced as the underlying theory. Due to the pioneering work of several famous nematode taxonomists in the first half of the 20th century an increased interest for the discipline arose. Very unfortunately, this interest decreased in more recent times to an alarming extent. The difficulty to correctly identify and to describe the rapidly increasing numbers of taxa has discouraged many young scientists and diverted them toward more appealing disciplines. Taxonomy provides nevertheless the basic knowledge for studies on biodiversity as well as for analyses of ecological and phylogenetic relationships. Molecular techniques have made systematics again exciting; when combined with the more traditional morphological approach, they will lead to new insights. Hopefully, these will arouse the interest of young scientists. Even then the future of nematode taxonomy will depend on the funding opportunities provided by national and international authorities.

La systématique des nématodes est brièvement revue depuis ses origines dans la seconde moitié du 19ème siècle. La plupart des travaux sont relatifs l’ α-taxinomie, mais dans les années trente et ensuite dans les années soixante, plusieurs classifications ont été proposées. Depuis les années 80, la systématique phylogénétique a été introduite comme la théorie sous-jacente. Grâce au travail de pionnier de plusieurs taxinomistes célèbres dans la première moitié du 20ème siècle, un intérêt accru est apparu pour la discipline. Très malheureusement, cet intérêt a décru récemment jusqu’à un niveau alarmant. La difficulté d’identifier correctement et de décrire un nombre de taxons augmentant rapidement a découragé de nombreux jeunes scientifiques et les a poussé vers des disciplines plus attirantes. La taxinomie cependant apporte la connaissance de base tant pour des études de biodiversité que pour des études de relations écologiques et phylogénétiques. Les techniques moléculaires ont rendu la systématique à nouveau attractive; lorsqu’elles seront combinées avec l’approche morphologique plus traditionnelle, elles conduiront à de nouveaux développements. Heureusement, elles vont réveiller l’intérêt des jeunes chercheurs. Malgré cela, le futur de la taxinomie des nématodes dépendra des opportunités de financement par les autorités nationales et internationales.


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