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Lost in worm space: phylogeny and morphology as road maps to nematode diversity

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For more content, see Nematologica.

The taxonomic impediment in nematology is expanding rather than receding: in the past decade estimates of nematode species richness have increased by several orders of magnitude, while the number of active nematode taxonomists has continued to decline steadily. In order to survive as a discipline in the new century, nematode taxonomy will therefore have to i) prioritise taxa that are relevant to other scientific investigations, ii) provide identification and classification tools that are easily applicable by nonspecialists, and iii) focus on revealing patterns of relatedness rather than on compiling exhaustive catalogues of species, since the latter will never remotely reach completion. Traditional morphological studies based on light microscopy do not meet these needs because they provide insufficient character resolution and require too much specialist knowledge. Phylogenetic approaches are more promising, especially when incorporating molecular sequence data as well as other non-traditional character suites.

En nématologie, les obstacles taxinomiques sont en accroissement plutôt qu’en recul: pendant la dernière décennie, les estimations relative à la diversité en espèces ont été accrues par plusieurs ordre de grandeur tandis que le nombre de taxinomistes a continué à décroître régulièrement. Pour se maintenir en tant que discipline au cours du nouveau siècle, la taxinomie nématologique devra donc i) donner priorité à des taxons en relation directe avec d’autres recherches scientifiques, ii) produire des instruments d’identification et de classification plus accessibles aux non-spécialistes, et iii) se concentrer sur la découverte de relations d’affinité plutôt que sur la compilation de catalogues d’espèces lesquels n’atteindront jamais l’exhaustivité. Les études morphologiques traditionnelles basées sur la microscopie optique ne peuvent répondre à ces besoins du fait qu’elles n’ont pas une résolution suffisante pour les caractères et qu’elles requièrent trop de connaissances spécialisées. Les approches phylogénétiques sont plus prometteuses, spécialement lorsqu’elles sont basées sur des séquences moléculaires et d’autres séries de caractères non-traditionnels.


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