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Re: Caudipteryx suffered from osteoarthritis

On Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 8:39 AM, Mike Taylor <mike@indexdata.com> wrote:
> On 6 January 2012 13:21, Matthew Martyniuk <martyniuk@gmail.com> wrote:
>> But nomenclatural claims, like the one in the title (that Caudipteryx
>> is a "bird"), depend on subjective and arbitrary dividing lines.
> No.  First, this is not a nomenclatural claim but a phylogenetic one.
> And second, whether or not Caudipteryx is a bird depends objectively
> on what definition of "bird" is used and what phylogeny is accepted.
> All perfectly objective -- merely uncertain.

I haven't read the paper yet, but I'm assuming the authors don't state
what definition of "bird" they're using (and given the authors I'm
assuming they don't refer to any clades). But given the context it
seems pretty clear that they're using "bird" to refer to any feathered
animal (so, implicitly, they're referring to the clade Aves sensu
Charig 1986). Their underlying phylogenetic hypothesis may be
demonstrably wrong, but there's nothing inherently wrong with their
nomenclature other than lack of explicitness.

> Sure it is.  For example, if we use the (Archaoteryx + Passer)
> definition, then the question of whether Caudipteryx is a bird is the
> question of whether it's in the clade (Archaopteryx + Passer) -- a
> question than can be (and in fact can only be) approached
> scientifically.

This is true if you assume that the vernacular term "bird" is
exclusively linked to the clade Aves and not some other taxonomic
entity, or none at all.

For example, we all agree that humans are synapsids, but whether or
not we're "fish" depends entirely on whether or not you link the word
"fish" to a formal taxon or not and, if so, which one. You then need
to admit that others else in the community may not be using this
particular vernacular term in the same way you've chosen to (neither
the ICZN nor ICPN or any other code regulate vernacular terms--that
was one of the basic reasons formal taxonomy was invented in the first

So whether or not Caudipteryx is an avian is a valid scientific (or at
least taxonomic) question. Whether or not that means it should or
should not be called a bird, a fowl, a fish or a worm (or all of the
above) are not. (One of the reasons I think using any of these terms
in the formal literature is a very bad idea).

> For the record, that's Maniraptorans Are Not In ACTUALITY Coelurosaurs
> -- otherwise the acronym doesn't work.

D'oh! ;D