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Re: Life Beyond the Cladogram

Message text written by INTERNET:smithjb@sas.upenn.edu
>I have often wondered why 
systematics has become the single-minded pursuit of so many of us, when 
there are so many additional, equally or more interesting and perhaps 
important questions out there. <

        In this vein, I just submitted a paper on a new sphenosuchian
which, during review, was implicated as making "too much of nothing" since
the specimen is diagnostic both as a sphenosuchian and as a new taxon, but
isn't well-enough preserved to be useful in any sphenosuchian phylogenetic
analysis.  My co-authors and I submitted it regardless because we believe
the specimen is useful in elucidating basal crocodylomorph evolutionary
trends, diversity and paleoecology.  I would have been happy to have
plugged the new taxon into extant data matrices for basal crocodylomorphs
to see where it fell out (and if it, by some chance, straightened out the
otherwise confusing and disagreeable state of basal croc systematics), but
such wasn't possible.  Does that mean the paper shouldn't be published, in
a day and age when more than half of the paleo papers published seem to
require a cladogram?  I don't think so...I too agree that there are other
equally interesting aspects of the study of fossils than just their

           ____/_\,)                    ..  _   
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                     Jerry D. Harris
                 Fossil Preparation Lab
          New Mexico Museum of Natural History
                   1801 Mountain Rd NW
               Albuquerque  NM  87104-1375
                 Phone:  (505) 899-2809
                  Fax: ; (505) 841-2866