John Hawks / Too Many Dino and Hominin Genera



Classic depiction T. rex. When you really look at it, how could this animal have run, or even walked?  Hopped? Maybe. What a sight that would be!


The revised T. rex as a superb example of natural engineering.

I think it’s obvious that our concepts about hominins need a radical rethinking, just as Dinos needed. We still see our ancestors as stupid, musclebound and ugly: In Fact, they were mobile living machines who bore little resemblance to couch and deskbound social moderns.
___________Too many dinosaurs

john hawks weblog (I don’t just “make up” opinions about naming and sorting problems – many scientists with a hand in the game agree) 

Maggie Koerth-Baker has a very nice piece in FiveThirtyEight about the high proportion of dinosaur genus names that have eventually been discarded over the years: “All Those New Dinosaurs May Not Be New — Or Dinosaurs”. She focuses on the work of Michael Benton, who has worked to document the number of named dinosaur genera that have fallen into disuse over the years.

Facts like this make paleontology seem hopelessly flawed. But there are good reasons to think that we’re getting better at naming dinosaurs, not worse, Benton said. Compared with 50 years ago, dinosaur names are now based on larger quantities of fossil evidence, and that evidence is evaluated in far more detailed, scientific ways. The theropod-herbivore imbalance suggests there is still something deeply wrong, but it’s not unfixable.

The bottom line is that nearly half of dinosaur genera named between 1850 and 1980 have been “sunk” by later scientists.

Is that a bad thing?

Actually, I view it as a very good thing that taxonomic proposals are subjected to strong testing as our knowledge increases. This is the way that biological science works. New discoveries that provide previously unknown parts for old fossil organisms allow them to be compared in new ways. New discoveries about the variation within known taxa can cause us to change what we see as sufficient to test a phylogenetic hypothesis. And new insights about biogeographic connections cause us to look at old data in a new light.

If we look at human evolution, the proportion of genera lost over the years is much greater. At a maximum today scientists accept just eight, with more than a dozen having been cast aside, also mostly before 1980. As in the case of dinosaurs, we are likewise in the midst of a taxonomic burst in naming hominin genera. Five of the eight hominin genera now accepted by many anthropologists were named after the year 1990, four after 2000.

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