XXV.1.2 Current taxonomic systems are polythetic; they define taxa on the basis of interchangeable traits

Essentialist taxonomic systems were mostly monothetic, as they assumed that the presence or absence of a certain trait is decisive for inclusion of a species in a particular taxon. For example, monothetic systems classify angiosperm plants strictly on the basis of the number of individual flower components.

However, most modern systems are polythetic. Polythetic systems allow a taxon to be defined on the basis of a greater number of mutually interchangeable traits. In contrast to monothetic systems, polythetic systems are somewhat harder to use as classification schemes, i.e. as instruments for determination of organisms. On the other hand, only polythetic systems can be truly natural, i.e. can reflect the phylogenesis of the studied organisms.

Was this information useful for you?
The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more
Draft translation from: Evoluční biologie, 2. vydání (Evolutionary biology, 2nd edition), J. Flegr, Academia Prague 2009. The translation was not done by biologist, therefore any suggestion concerning proper scientific terminology and language usage are highly welcomed. You can send your comments to flegratcesnet [dot] cz. Thank you.