Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 249–257 | Cite as

Synamorphy, monophyly, and cladistic analysis: A reply to Wilkinson

  • Michael F. Whiting
  • Lawrence M. Kelly


Wilkinson (1991) suggests that the problems of polarity decisions and homoplasy in a cladistic analysis may be solved if cladists simply accept plesiomorphy as a reliable indicator of monophyly. Here we argue that: (1) Wilkinson's argument is based on misapprehension of synapomorphy and the problem of homoplasy; (2) His proposed methodology fails to consider the full ramifications of rooting, polarity, and parsimony; and (3) His method does not solve the problems he raises. We demonstrate the limitations of this methodology by using Wilkinson's practical example. We find no justification for the assertion that plesiomorphy may reliably delimit monophyly and recommend against Wilkinson's suggested methodological revisions.


Character State Cladistic Analysis Plesiomorphic State Transformation Series Hypothetical Tree 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael F. Whiting
    • 1
  • Lawrence M. Kelly
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.L.H. Bailey HortoriumCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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