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Re: Taxonomic levels in birds

On Sun, 4 Feb 1996, Ronald Orenstein wrote:

> Ornithologists divide living birds into some 20-30 orders and over 100
> families.  This system is highly convenient for bird students.  But if birds
> are merely a subset of maniraptorian dinosaurs, what happens to all those
> orders and families?  Ideally they should be reduced to lower categories -
> but unless you are going to call each family a genus or at best a tribe,
> that means using all sorts of intermediate terms beginning with sub-,
> inter-, infra-, etc etc. and I don't think ornithologists are ready to do 
> that.

Hence the argument by me and many others that such taxonomic ranks are 
meaningless and should be done away with.  Either that, or you can stack 
all the dinosaurian ranks on top of the bird ranks, creating:

Class Aves
Superclass Avialae
Subphylum Maniraptora
Phylum Coelurosauria
Superphylum Avetheropoda
Kingdom Tetanurae

..and so on, ad nauseam... 

> But it gets worse.  According to the classification in Long's "The Rise of
> Fishes" all tetrapods belong in the Division Tetrapoda of the Subclass
> Crossopterygii in the Class Osteichthyes!  

Meaning that the old names for these categories don't fit and we need new 
ones.  Perhaps the taxon Sarcoscelidea ("fleshy limbs") within the taxon 
Osteophora ("bone bearers").  The Crossopterygii and Osteichthyes, under 
their original definitions, are parataxa and should be thrown out.

> By this classification (though he
> doesn't carry it through for us to see as his book is about "real" fishes) I
> imagine all Archosaurs constitute at best an order, with Ornithischia and
> Saurischia reduced to, perhaps, family level and all living birds, all 9000+
> species of them with all 20+ orders etc, reduced to, perhaps, a single tribe
> in the subfamily that includes all carnivorous dinosaurs!

Indeed, the Tetrapoda show far less internal variation in form than do 
many "coordinate" groups.  It is only because that is the group that 
includes Man (note the pompous capital "m") that we make such fine 
distinctions within it.  Throw out the Linnaean ranks (above, say, 
family).  They don't make any sense!

> I don't hear people here arguing that all dinosaurs are
> crossopterygian fishes, but the  argument is identical.

Well, they are indisputably sarcoscelideans (if one chooses to acept my 
term), the least derived members of which taxon we call "fishes" in the 

> --
> Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886 (home)
> International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116 (home)

Auf Wiederschreiben!

Nick Pharris
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447

"If you can't convince them, confuse them." -- Harry S. Truman