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Re: Two new FAQs: Everything You Wanted To Know About Cladistics

They both look pretty good to me (although I've only read them once quickly). One thing I would like to see on the second one is some mention of homoplasies (convergences and especially reversals), and how they can sometimes trick both computers and people into believing they are synapomorphies (and thus can negatively affect reliability).
And on the first one, I would quibble a little with equating "traditional Reptilia" with "Reptilia minus Aves". Many traditionalists continue to removed both Aves and Mammalia from Reptilia, and leave the traditional paraphyletic synapsids (pelycosaurs and therapsids) in Reptilia. This is the way it was traditionally done for much of the 20th Century, and it is still often done this way outside of cladistic circles.
--- Cheers, Ken
From: Mike Taylor <mike@tecc.co.uk>
Reply-To: mike@tecc.co.uk
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
CC: mike@tecc.co.uk
Subject: Two new FAQs: Everything You Wanted To Know About Cladistics
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 16:21:07 +0100

OK, thanks to everyone who's contributed to the last couple of
classification-related FAQs.  I think I now have those more of less
under control, although there are still some comments left to
integrate.  I'll see to it in due time ...

In the mean time, I have finished the initial draft of two more FAQs,
also to do with the knotty subject of classification: they are
``What do terms like monophyletic, paraphyletic and polyphyletic mean?'' at
(which I think I may have mentioned on-list before)
``What is cladistics? How reliable is it?'' at

Now I _know_ I have bitten off more than I can chew with the second of
these.  I know that my examples are clumsy and my explanations
awkward.  This is a big subject, and I am doing the best I can with
from my position of limited understanding -- remembering that building
a FAQ that's comprehensible to newbies is actually much _harder_ for
an expert than for a fellow-newbie such as myself.  (At least, I
assume that's true, otherwise one of you would have done it, right?

Anyway, I ask you all please to be gentle with me this time :-)  I
welcome all feedback -- as critical as you like -- but please try to
make it _constructively_ critical!

Thanks as always,

 _/|_  _______________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor | <mike@miketaylor.org.uk> | www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "Light-speed isn't fast enough.  We'll have to go straight to
       ... Ludicrous Speed!" -- Dark Helmet, "Spaceballs"

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