by Jerzy Prószyński

Professor Emeritus, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences,
ul. Wilcza 63, 00-679 Warsaw, POLAND


Maddison tries to remember ...

Maddison tries to remember ...

Maddison, as every arachnologist know, is the greatest theoretician of phylogeny of Salticidae and his words have weight, which should be respected by everybody publishing on Salticidae during our century. Just recently he tried to remember basic principles of taxonomy, which he knew so well when, as 18 years old boy, wrote to me in 1970ties. He formulates now his views in a more scientific way, befitting distinguished professor, he is now, in the introduction to his newest paper on Sitticinae spiders (Maddison, W. P., Maddison, D. R., Derkarabetian, S. & Hedin, M. (2020). Sitticine jumping spiders: phylogeny, classification, and chromosomes (Araneae, Salticidae, Sitticini). ZooKeys 925: 1-54). He did not approve pragmatic classification of Prószyński because "... without reference to a broader theory ... it is not clear what it means ..." (as the wording of Maddison is a little bit complicated I advise reader to look at facsimile of the original text below).

If I understand the present day Maddison correctly, the first classificator Aristotle, old Linnaeus, Simon (father of XX century taxonomy of spiders), young Maddison and even that poor, generally criticized Prószyński, all failed to base their works "on "conceptual classification" - in difference to getting old Maddison, who writes so voluminously about "monophyly, adaptive zones or predictivity across many characters".
I cannot vouch for Aristotle, but my my methodology is very simple - I try to define each species (for ca 400 type species of genera I gave the first graphic diagnostic definition in history) and try since to arrange them by their similarities. The criterion of probable truth is statistics of correlations, for instance verifiable similarity of internal structure of epigyne in 100 species of Myrmarachne is more trustworthy that not verified words on "molecular support" in one (later seven) species of Myrmarachne (see Prószyński Taxonomic position of Myrmarachne and related genera). I organized broad factual support for considered similarities in a form of database of diagnostic characters of ca 4800 recognizable species, taken both from my original research and from the literature (from that of Maddison's as well). That compendium of diagnostic characters, accessible to everybody in the Internet, serves for recognition and check diagnostic characters of Salticidae faunae for variety of purposes, including registering of their diversity worldwide, important in view of destruction of natural environment, but has been notoriously boycotted by Maddison and colleagues. Frankly I cannot be sure of value of my 60 years long studies, but Kropf et all (2019) summarize that in the following way: "we consider Prószyński's lifework as truly exceptional and we feel a deep respect for it". Well, Maddison has full right to formulate his own opinions.
In the Soviet Union there existed respected authority for answering difficult questions, called "Armenian Radio" and it seems to me that they broadcasted a discussion related to Maddison's problem". I quote it from memory:

"Armenian Radio was asked: can electron microscope be used to drive nails?"
"We answer: It can. But better use hammer".

Philosophers usually do not know much about spiders and their molecular phylogeny, but there was a XIV century friar called William Ockham, who formulated the rule called now "Occam's razor" - I recommend, to my learned critics, to read it again.

Reference commentaries

Summary of Prószyński's view on SITTICINES taxonomy, just rewritten, is available as a Chapter 17 of his new "Survey of Genera of Salticidae of the World - an Atlas".

Extensive collections of publications following the memorable publication by Kropf and all (2019), pro et contra, can be read, or even copied their PDF versions, from

Preliminary PDF publications on "broader theories" of Maddison by Prószyński can be read in, or copied from:
- [Taxonomic position of Myrmarachne and related genera],
- [Comparison of systems of Salticidae].

Comments and documentation to some controversial nomenclatorical decisions of Maddison (found incidentally during lecture of papers of that author, I did not carried out consequent search for all of his mistakes) in the Database of Salticidae under respective genera and species.

(-) Jerzy Prószyński.