has been the daily blogpost for additions and changes to ReptileEvolution.com, a growing, illustrated, and sometimes animated online study of vertebrate morphology and interrelationships. This month marks eight years online.
At the core
of this ongoing published (but not peer-reviewed study) is the large reptile tree (LRT, 1540 taxa) and it’s two branching subsets: the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 238 taxa) and the therapsid skull tree (TST, 69 taxa). With every new taxon these three studies become more inclusive, more comprehensive, and better able to nest all included taxa because nearly all possible candidates are tested. The complete gamut is sampled.
Except for a few very incomplete and deletable taxa,
all three trees are fully resolved with high Bootstrap scores (when scored as smaller subsets due to computer limitations). No other comprehensive studies make that claim.
All taxa are illustrated,
often with colors identifying skull bones, overlays and animations—so pertinent data is shown ask if in vivo. No other comprehensive studies provide such a large percentage of reconstructions.
Against current paradigms
the three cladograms employ relatively few multi-state characters, too few according to the experts. Plenty enough, however, according to the full resolution results of the LRT. This is an example of one small fact ruining a widely accepted hypothesis.
Similar to every other paleontologist on the planet,
I knew literally nothing about every added taxon. That means no expertise or academic bias was brought to bear on the initial observations. I did not trust previously published cladograms and matrices, as most other paleontologists do. They too often add their taxon to an trusted, untested tree topology, and too often to the ruin of their results.
Over the last eight years
I have learned about and conveyed to you fresh insights about birds, fish and everything in between. No doubt, tens of thousands of scoring and illustrative errors occurred along the way. I know this because I have made that many corrections over the last eight years… some new ones just yesterday. So, it’s a continuing process. Those who have attempted to dissuade readership several years ago have watched from the sidelines as paradigm-busting discoveries were announced month after month over the past eight years. Several of those discoveries were discovered again years later by academics, confirming the validity of the LRT. I will let you know the first time one of those professors acknowledges the citation omission.
lacking pertinent taxa were criticized. Artists were celebrated. Misidentified bones in reptiles like Yi qi and Ambopteryx where re-identified (see below). Traditions were ignored. Authority was challenged. Data was celebrated.
First post: July 12, 2011.
The Dinosaur Heresies (Bakker 1986) opened chapter one with the statement, “I remember the first time the thought struck me! ‘There’s something very wrong with our dinosaurs.” In turn, by convergence, I opened with this blogpost with the statement, “There is also something very wrong with our pterosaurs. Examining and correcting those errors is the reason for this blog.” Little did I realize there was also something wrong with birds, fish, turtles and many of the major vertebrate clades, almost always due to taxon exclusion.
Since that first post,
the growing online LRT, LPT and TST have recovered novel interrelationships in bats, whales, mammals, reptiles, creodonts, turtles, snakes, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, archosaurs, archosauriforms, diapsids, anapsids, mesosaurs, synapsids, birds, pre-birds, fish, and dozens more. Use the keyword box to search for your favorites.
Thank you for your readership,
your questions, your comments, your interest in this subject. I have learned so much over the last eight years. Discoveries are fun. I hope this 8-year-long ongoing presentation leads to more focused studies in a data-driven, validated phylogenetic context. And I hope it leads to the rejection of old, invalidated traditions, most of which continue to hang on without evidence, like tail-dragging dinosaurs.