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RE: A new term for "missing link"



Not sure if this has been pointed out already, but the 'keystone' idea is
totally wrong. The term refers to the piece at the apex of an arch without
which it would fall down, and the metaphor in ecology is that there are
certain species which stabilize their community such that if they were
driven to extinction, many others would inevitably follow.

In palaeontology and evolution we don't need no stinkin' keystones, there's
no one thing without which our theories fall down (only positive evidence
can strongly falsify a hypothesis, absence of any particular fossil is not a
problem). Bad framing!

The term 'missing link' can be understood not (obviously) as something that
is still missing, but something that fills a gap that has previously been
noticed and discussed. A link missing-till-now. That's possibly the ONLY way
it makes sense in current usage. Of course it quickly dates: last week's
Missing Link is this week's transitional form, and in a few months it'll be
just another branch (with its own autapomorphies) on some cladogram.

-----------------------------------------------
Dr John D. Scanlon, FCD
Riversleigh Fossil Centre, Outback at Isa
riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au
http://tinyurl.com/f2rby
 
"Get this $%#@* python off me!", said Tom laocoonically.


-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Paulsen [mailto:birdbooker@zipcon.net] 
Sent: 15 October, 2009 7:34 AM
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Cc: vrtpaleo@usc.edu
Subject: A new term for "missing link"

HI ALL:
 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?