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Protoctista v. Protista

Charles J. O'Kelly okellyc at megasun.BCH.UMontreal.CA
Thu Mar 24 21:35:20 EST 1994

In article <9403241712.AA19979 at ralph.sybgate.sybase.com>, kpl at SYBASE.COM (kevin patrick lynch) writes:
|> Which one is preferred these days and why?
|> Protoctista v. Protista.

Protista.  By far the most commonly used term at least during my lifetime.

For a brief period during the 1980s, it was thought that the name Protoctista was published
earlier than Protista. Therefore, since the various Codes of Nomenclature say that the correct
name for a taxon is the one that is first published, certain purists, Lynn Margulis in
particular, lobbied for Protoctista.  Later work showed that the priority of Protoctista is by
no means certain.  Besides, most of the Codes of Nomenclature with which I am familiar do no
-require- that names of higher taxa (in this case, the names of a Kingdom) follow the so-called
"principle of priority".  I doubt you will hear many practicing protistologists use the term

Incidentally, in many opinions including mine, Protista is spelled with a small "p" and is
anglicized to "protists".  The "kingdom Protista" of everybody from Haeckel to Cavalier-Smith
is paraphyletic and therefore inadmissible at least in cladistic approaches to classification.
It is possible to discover the monophyletic lineages (one ancestor and all descendants)
embedded within the protists, and this work is being done.  Trouble is, when the lineages are
found and published, they will screw up -everybody's- classification systems!

Charley O'Kelly
Mad (NB) Protistologist
okellyc at bch.umontreal.ca

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