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WRT the affinities of grebes, Matt Troutman writes...
> S&A have argued that they are the members of an ancient lineage
> with not close living relatives based on DNA-DNA hybridization.
Sibley and Ahlquist were inordinately fond of using this phrase (i.e.
'they have no close living relatives'). They used it for coliiforms,
for parrots, for grebes, for some aberrant anseriforms, for
cuckoos... In the literature you will read the same thing being said
for other unusual taxa, e.g. _Neofelis_ (the clouded leopard).
FACT IS - - if (a) you accept the evidence for organic evolution, and
(b) you therefore think that all organisms are related to each other
by way of descent, how on earth can any organism _not_ have a close
relative???!! (Of course, 'closeness' is usually objective -
molecular clocks notwithstanding!). In other words, grebes, or
clouded leopards, or bizarre Australian ducks, or whatever, *must* be
more closely related to some other sort of animal that they are to
all the others. Thus it is false to state that any taxon 'has no
Bought to you from the Brad Livezey school of phylogenetics.
"The road from reptiles to birds is by way of Dinosauria to the
Ratitae. The bird 'phylum' was struthious, and wings grew out of
rudimentary forelimbs" - - Huxley, 1868