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Errors and misunderstandings (was RE: Air sacs in extant non-avian reptiles?)

> From: ELurio@aol.com [mailto:ELurio@aol.com]
> In a message dated 7/31/00 10:25:09 AM, tholtz@geol.umd.edu writes:
> << Did you not happen to catch the line in the posting you quote
> which read:
> "a shift in the convention of naming groups, with a traditional
> system based
> on grades of organization and the current system based on nested
> pattern of
> ancestry."
> When you come to understand the change in this shift, you'll figure this
> out. >>
> Of course I do, a group of palentoligists who wished very much
> that dinosaurs
> were still alive decided that the best way to do so was to
> downgrade birds
> from something unique and beautiful into tiny T-rexes. Since dinos are
> repties, then birds, which are an unimportant group of dinosaurs who just
> managed to survive to the present day, must be too. While most biologists
> don't accept that, a few palentologists do, and most of them post here.

This is near pointless, I know, but it is worth setting the record straight.

I) Phylogenetic-based classifications are supported by many biologists:
neontologists and paleontologists alike.  These include botanists,
mammalogists, lizard workers, ichthyologists, entomologists, malacologists,
and others who have no particular interest in Dinosauria.  They merely wish
to remove taxonomy from its pre-evolutionary heritage (the centerpiece of
Linnaean philosophy being the fixity of kind) to a Darwinian model (Charles
"Rapper Chucky D" Darwin taking much of Chapter 13 of the Origin to advocate
a new system of classification based on commonality of descent rather than
on key characters or grade of organization).

II) Okay, Bakker gets a real kick about dinosaurs being around as birds.
For most of the rest of us, it is simply an interesting result of the study
of the Tree of Life.  Quite frankly, it makes things difficult at times
(hence the use of phrases like "non-avian dinosaurs" or statements about the
K-T extinction), but I'd rather stick to consistent evolutionary principles
and rigorous methodology than sacrifice good evidence and analyses for a
vestige of traditional past.  There were geologists who'd rather not have
had moving continents, but as the evidence came in so strongly supporting
it, they gave way.  (For the most part: there is a small but [thankfully]
not so vocal minority who hold that plate tectonics doesn't happen, or that
it doesn't happen in any way as commonly portrayed).

III) Gee, I'm glad to see that you can somehow tell paleontologists
aesthetics from a distance.  Although I joke about "swelled-headed
stump-tailed flying mutants", I am a birder: I've got feeders of four
different kinds hanging where I can see them from the kitchen windows; I've
got buttloads of photographs of birds from trips to such places as Arizona
and the Caribbean and the Galapagos, etc.  I like birds: they are beautiful.

IV) "Downgraded"?  Being a member of a larger clade is not considered
downgrading to most biologists.  Birds are still birds, humans are still
humans, and crinoids are still crinoids.  Just because the evidence shows
that the first of these are a clade of dinosaurian reptiles, the second are
primate placentals, and the latter are echinoderm deuterostomes doesn't
cause any form of demotion.

V) I know _T. rex_.  Birds might be cool, but they will never be _T. rex_

VI) Incidentally, Eric, any luck on finding references supporting your
claims, as I asked for previously?

Happy trails.

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-314-7843