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Re: A new term for "missing link"

Ian Paulsen <birdbooker@zipcon.net>, using a series of non-random key presses, 

>  After reading your comments about the
> term "missing link", I was trying
> to come up with a new term to use and
> thought of "Keystone Fossil". I got
> the idea from the ecological term
> "Keystone Species." Any comments?

A good idea in theory, but it is hard to impliment in practice.  For instance, 
Archaeopteryx (a genus) "links" birds with the rest of birds' brothers and 
sisters in Dinosauria, but Archaeopteryx is probably not a direct ancestor of 
living birds.

Cladistists sometimes put a fossil species at a node on a cladogram, but that 
is because there may be only one known example of that taxon.  Its done for 
expediency, not because that species is assumed to be a direct ancestor.

The term "missing link" had noble origins, truely scientific origins, back in 
the 1800s, but today it seems to be used mostly by non-scientists, some of whom 
are not particularly friendly to the concepts of modern biology.  I tend to 
avoid using the term.

The concepts used in cladistics, which I prefer to use, haven't caught on with 
the rest of the general public.  That is probably the fault of our school 
system (particularly in the U. S.).


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