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Re: Sinosauropteryx filament melanosomes challenged
The way the term actually gets used, in reality, equates to
'ectothermic amniote' (I say ectothermic rather than poikilothermic
because of hummingbird torpor and such). Trying to make it a clade
(and thus including birds) just confuses people.
But there really isn't any gain in getting rid of the word entirely,
either; having to talk about "lepidosaurs, crocodilians, and
chelonians" would be a pain.
Getting rid of it is the only way to make clear that it isn't a clade.
The formal classification Reptilia should just go away -- presuming
we're using a system where monophyly is required. But the informal
term 'reptiles' is still useful.
The only way to possibly save it is what Joseph T. Collins (aka "Center
for North American Herpetology") does: he uses it for either
"lepidosaurs" or "squamates" (same thing for a neontologist in North
America, so I can't tell). He now routinely writes about "the turtles,
reptiles, and crocodilians of North America" or "the turtles and
reptiles of Kansas". But why do that when "squamate" (and "lepidosaur")
is already available?
Same for 'fish' (Class Pisces is pretty much dead, but we can still
talk about fish).
But should we?
My doctoral supervisor, Michel Laurin, is notorious for having banned
the word "fish" (in several languages) from his own usage and that of
anybody he can influence. In his previous department, there was a
tradition that, every year before Christmas, the whole department had a
dinner in a restaurant. One year, he says, they were served ray wings.
The organizer said "oh no, anything but this!" It turned out she had
ordered "fish" and got "fish". Michel immediately pointed out that they
wouldn't have got chondrichthyan if she had ordered actinopterygian or
teleost, which was what she actually wanted.
Ray wings, for those who haven't had the questionable pleasure, are
fibrous and slimy at the same time; not to everyone's taste. It is
immediately obvious that teleost is much more similar to amniote meat.
I hope the word "fish" will one day be restricted to "actinopterygian".
I think a slow trend towards this already exists.