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Re: Non-serpentine lacertids (was RE:WHAT'S GOING ON?)

>In a message dated 7/3/00 3:00:31 AM, tmk@dinosauricon.com writes:
><< > If you're going to stick to the old class system [and why not? it
>> works!!!!!!],
>It works somewhat for extant forms (although it's still unsatisfactory in
>many ways), but many fossil taxa tend to get less classificatory space
>(no ranks for Dinosauria, Neotheropoda, Tetanurae, Neotetanurae,
>Maniraptoriformes, Maniraptora, Paraves or Eumaniraptora), or more than
>they need (_Archaeopteryx_ constitutes a subclass, an infraclass, a
>superorder, an order, a suborder, an infraorder, a superfamily, a
>family, a subfamily, a tribe ...). >>
>It works perfectly for exent forms. That's why it lasted so long as a system.

It lasted as long as it did for historical reasons.  Biodiversity is
arranged hierarchically, and we humans are very good pattern recognizers;
we couldn't have failed to see the natural hierarchy laid before us, and
Linnaeus was not the first.  So when Darwin and his contemporaries
formulated their theories of evolution, they used the hierarchy of
biodiversity as evidence for evolution.  That biodiversity (living and
extinct) was already arranged hierarchically was not only a convenience -
it showed a natural order to things that could best be interpreted in light
of evolution.  The Linnean system was thus retrointerpreted as the product
of evolution, even though its initial conception was not in an evolutionary

I disagree with your point that it works "perfectly" for living organisms;
in fact,  a phylogenetic nomenclatural system improves clarity and adds to
the predictive power of taxonomy.  Anyone who thinks it works perfectly for
living things should compare the taxonomies of virtually any group of
extant taxa over the past century.  And we cannot divorce the living from
the dead in taxonomy - we have to treat them equally.  In fact, most of the
major players in developing the PhyloCode are neontologists who do not work
with fossils, but who realize that biodiversity is biodiversity.


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

voice: 312-665-7633
fax: 312-665-7641
electronic:  cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org