oa South African Journal of Science - The classification of organisms at the edge of life or problems with virus systematics

Volume 86, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Biologists have a pronounced tendency to name, classify and order their organisms of interest: this compulsion has been dignified by calling it taxonomy or systematics, and has evolved into a science all of its own. Thue are violent disagreements as to assign.m.entsof organisms, however, which have often been resolved as much of personnIity as by use of qWlntijiable data. Much has also been written recently on the relative merits of the use of morphological and biochemical criteria for biological classification (see Crowe for a review): the application of molecular biological technology to systematics is still in its infancy; however, there is much promise in its potential generation of vast amounts of data for the precise and unequivocal classification of organisms. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the actual and potential application of phylogenetic and other alliJlyses of nucleic acid and protein sequences of viruses to the taxonomy and systematics viruses and, extension, to all other

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