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Re: Livezey and Zusi's big bird morph analysis [...]

Michael Habib wrote:

Granted, Mayr's analysis is, in a sense, the strongest by default. However, I do think there is substantial reason to suspect that the similarities are convergent. I disagree that the evidence is weak. The catch, of course, is that no one else has yet sat down to do an expanded parsimony-based analysis.

Absolutely. Mayr's analysis may not have been perfect, but it is on the table - and any refutation of the penguin-plotopterid link will have to come in the form of another character-based analysis (more taxa, more characters, etc). This is a case of fighting fire with fire. Simple hand-waving and 'just-so' stories just don't cut it any more.

I suspect that when plotopterids are added into larger analyses (such as the Livezey and Zusi matrix), they will not fall with penguins (assuming that the characters used are not heavily weighted towards forelimb structure). But maybe I'll be surprised, and that would be quite interesting.

I agree with the methodology, but I'm keeping an open mind with respect to the conclusions. With modern birds, I'll believe anything. :-)



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