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Re: Greg Paul is right (again); or "Archie's not a birdy"

David Černý <david.cerny1@gmail.com> wrote:

> But what if it is a vernacular name (like "birds") that is prone to
> unjustified inferences? The examples presented by Gauthier and de
> Queiroz (2001) all involved the term "birds", not _Aves_. You cannot
> get rid of unjustified infereces unless you convince all biologists
> that _Ichthyornis_ is not a "bird". Moving it out of _Aves_ is not
> enough.

Alas, I don't think we can control the usage of vernacular names like
"bird" - though it's worth a try, using the medium of phylogenetic
taxonomy.  By their very nature informal categories are often
imprecise and misleading.

For example, the term "worm" is applied to a huge diversity of animal
life, including at least one reptile group (slow worms).  The term
"lizard" tends to exclude snakes (and slow worms!), even though both
are types of lizards (Lacertilia) in a phylogenetic sense.  As another
example, the term "shark" is applied to a great many basal
elasmobranchs that lie outside the crown clade (like _Cladoselache_,
_Xenacanthus_ and hybodonts), but not to "rays" and "skates" that
(along with extant "sharks") belong to the crown clade.

For "birds", even if further research supports the hypothesis that
_Archaeopteryx_ is no more closer to modern birds than deinonychosaurs
are, then I suspect that _Archaeopteryx_ will still be called a "bird"
(even though _Velociraptor_ will not).  Old habits die hard.  But
referring to taxa such as _Archaeopteryx_  and _Jeholornis_ as
"non-avian" will (hopefully) minimize the number of unjustified
inferences made about non-avialan or basal avialan "birds".