published by Houghton Mifflin). Arachnophobes beware; Hubbell dis- Evelyn Somers discovered Sue Hubbell's "The Web" in the manuscript of Hubbell's upcoming book Waiting for Aphrodite (soon to be cusses spiders and their designs at some length. But the real subject of the essay is our science of naming the web of life forms--taxonomy. We have all heard anecdotes of misnaming--and thus misunderstanding--living things, but have you ever wondered how common such mistakes are and by what process they are corrected? According to Hubbell, this basic area of biology is more mutable than one might expect. One eminent taxonomist says that the definitions of only about one-sixth of the known species in the world will hold up are huge. The science itself has undergone a revolution over the last fifty years as the old Linnaean system has been replaced by a procedure under informed scrutiny, and estimates of numbers of unnamed species called "phylogenetic systematics." Read on for an experience with the most natural of American nature writers. Many of the pieces in this issue, as it turns out, have to do with a kind of taxonomy among people, especially with those plagued in some way by the concept
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Oct 5, 1998
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