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A hierarchical classification of a group is the key to our collective understanding of life on Earth. Since Linnaeus, the delineations of groups at various levels and their positions in the hierarchy are based on shared (morphological) similarities, some of which may be symplesiomorphies in today's view. Many groups, however, such as the orders in the class Diplopoda, have remained stable since their introduction. Ongoing systematic research on a group leads to a significant increase of described species. Descriptions of taxa are modified, and consequently, taxon names and ranks change. While such name changes are often somewhat naively decried as a "bad habit" in modern taxonomy, it is important to remember that these modifications represent badly needed progress in the systematics of the organisms in question.
Nevertheless, name changes do hamper access to the legacy data in the literature, especially for inexperienced taxonomists. For the purpose of clarification, we offer a set of six tables delineating the current classification of the Diplopoda (Shelley, 2003), as well as highlighting the contributions of Attems, Brölemann, Pocock and Silvestri (cited in the Bibliography).
The current classification of the Diplopoda employs the following ranks:
Subclass Penicillata, Chilognatha
Infraclass Pentazonia, Helminthomorpha
Subterclass Colobognatha, Eugnatha
Superorder Juliformia, Nematophora, Merocheta
Order, indicated by the ending –ida, as in Spirobolida
Suborder, indicated by the ending –idea, as in Chordeumatidea
Infraorder, Polydesmoides, Oniscodesmoides, only in the order Polydesmida
Superfamily, indicated by the ending –oidea as in Polydesmoidea
Family, indicated by the ending –idae as in Glomeridae
Subfamily, indicated by the ening –inae, as in Chelodesminae
Tribe, indicated by the ending –ini as in Sphaerotheriini
The following tables are available as downloadable PDF files:
Table 1: Family-level classification of the Diplopoda
Table 2: Supra-familial classification of the Diplopoda
Table 3: Valid millipede families in alphabetical order
Tables 4a, 4b: Supra-familial taxon names and their synonyms
Tables 5a, 5b: Family synonyms
Tables 6a, 6b: Synonyms of subfamilies and tribes
Tables 1, 2 and 3 are based on Shelley's (2003) "revised, annotated family-level classification" (Arthropoda Selecta, 11(3), 187-207). Tables 4, 5 and 6 are based on Hoffman's (1980) Classification of the Diplopoda (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Genève, 237pp). Tables 4, 5 and 6 are provided here for convenience and are not intended to suggest nomenclatorial actions. They do not contain complete synonymies, but merely list frequently used older taxon names and their current valid counterpart. In tables 4a, 5a, and 6a taxon names are arranged in alphabetical order of the currently used taxon names. In tables 4b, 5b, and 6b the taxa are arranged in alphabetical order of the synonyms.