Monday, November 17, 2008

Sophophora melanogaster

Yeah, in a few days, I will go to San Diego, to a meeting where all the major names in the Drosophila systematics will come together to discuss the future of the genus Drosophila, and especially Sophophora melanogaster. The genus Drosophila as currently defined is paraphyletic, and I together with a few others are going to propose to split the genus.

Not everybody likes that, and some have decided to organise a one day workshop to address this issue and some additional issues.

A major issue with splitting the genus is that one most used model organism, Drosophila melanogaster will change its name to Sophophora melanogaster. Yes, indeed. Impossible! That is not even worth a discussion, the sheer magnitude of schoolbooks, internet pages, etc that need to be adapted to accommodate such a change is unacceptable. Fortunately, there is a small group of scientists at the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature who can debate, vote and overrule the normal rules for naming species. So, we submitted an application (pdf) to them, in which we asked them to fix this for the community by setting asside the current type species (D. funebris), and make D. melanogaster the new type species. Problem solved. You would think. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Unfortunately, a bunch of people object to it. Some say that the world just has to print new books, change the texts etc, and that we do not have to be mindfull of all those schoolkids etc. Others say we do not know enough, which as fas as I am concerned is bogus, but heck, disagreement is the fuel for progress.

Anyway, in a few days, I will be defending our proposal to split the genus, and see whether we can actually agree on this. I keep you posted!


Akheloios said...

Go team Sophophora!

I must admit that, as a layman, i thought you were putting up a parody post as Sophophora is worryingly close to Soporific. As Sarah Palin taught us, any knowledge of Drosophila past 'fruit-fly research' is a heavy tax on our attention.

I for one can adapt to the new nomenclature, as my microscopic understanding of molecular biology can withstand a tip-ex n' correcting of a genus.

Interesting post, it keeps us semi-concious amateurs on our toes.

Unknown said...

Thanks. It seems that several people at the meeting where convinced that Sophophora melanogaster would not be an issue for the community at large, and that they would just adapt. I have my doubts, but heck, I can be wrong.