Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 29–41 | Cite as

On a functional-morphological approach to phylogenetic reconstruction: A critique

  • Ronald Sluys


A method of phylogenetic reconstruction as proposed by a number of scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute is discussed. The method is based on functional-morphological studies, the evolutionary adaptation principle of Bock and Von Wahlert (1965) and so-called model reconstruction. It is argued in this paper that direction of the adaptation process cannot be determined because of lack of knowledge about particular selective forces and that theories of model reconstruction are not open to contradiction in the sense of Popperian falsification. Although it has been claimed that the method provides the only valid directional argument for morphoclines in cladistic studies, it remains unclear how to proceed when morphoclines show contradictory polarities. Moreover, it is doubtful whether polarities of morphoclines can be determined independently of phylogenetic hypotheses, and also whether the use of multistate morphoclines is methodologically valid. By relying on a particular evolutionary theory, i.e. the neo-Darwinian theory, and consequently assigning natural selection as the major agent of directional progress, the Senckenburg method of phylogenetic reconstruction restricts itself to microevolutionary change and, therefore, cannot be used when other hypotheses on the evolutionary process appear to explain the speciation process more plausibly, i.e. hypotheses on macroevolution. Furthermore, it is an unproved statement that evolution always proceeds according to the principle of economy.


Adaptation Process Phylogenetic Reconstruction Selective Force Evolutionary Adaptation Model Reconstruction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Sluys
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Taxonomic ZoologyUniversity of AmsterdamHC AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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