Monday, July 4, 2011

A Parade of Plants

So now that the first batch of animals is done, I've been gearing up to present fifty plant species of Nereus. I'm still working to get all the plants into a satisfactory cladogram and taxonomic classification, but things are coming along nicely. I've decided that, rather than featuring individual species I'll focus on genera, that way I'll be able to speak in more, well, general terms (notice the pun? ;)). I noticed many times while working with animal species that I was occasionally limited in what possibilities I could explore within a given entry; hopefully writing about a genus at a time rather than a species will allow me a little more flexibility in coverage.

Another aspect I'm considering, and would love some reader feedback on, is the order of presentation. The animals were grouped by biome, but with the plants I could present them a clade at a time, producing them in groups based on genetic relationship rather than by shared environment. A couple benefits I see from this are:

- Continuity of concept and appearance. With the animal nereids I would often have to revisit clades in order to ensure that the features and attributes of my current species meshed with its 'predecessors.' This occasionally resulted in wildly different methods of, say, reproduction or similar details, and even some niggling little aesthetic differences. While I feel that ultimately the animal cladogram came out pretty well, there was quite a bit of adjustment I had to make in order for it to make sense (and still more work in some cases, but that's a topic for another post); working within clades will probably solve those problems.

- Linear evolutionary progression. By starting at the beginning and working my way through the clades, I could better show the progressive trends of evolutionary adaptation and complexity, further reinforcing my own scientific understanding of the project. This would also not lock me into the developmental quagmire I found when it became clear that I needed to add insulating hair to some of the animals.

I think this method of organizing the plant presentation could certainly work, but I also think that the benefits of ecological symbiosis and the diversity produced from spreading out the clades as I did with the animals could have merit too. I just don't know which one would be best, so I put the question to you, the reader. By clade or by biome?