Alpha Taxonomy and Identifying Fossils

Alpha Taxonomy and Species Grammar
Alpha taxonomy: the discovery, description, and classification of species.

Linnean taxonomy has its own special set of grammatical rules:

Because there is disagreement about the features used to define a particular species or genus, different biologists and paleontologists will sometimes disagree about which specimens belong in a particular species, and which species belong in a particular genus (and so forth).

For those interested in a website concerning some unusual Linnaean species names, click here.

Types and Type Specimens

Objective and Subjective Synonyms
If two synonyms are based on the same type specimen, they are said to be objective synonyms. If they are based on separate type specimens, they are subjective synonyms.

Problematic Names

  • Obsolete Names: as of 1 January 2000, if a name has not been used as a valid name for over 100 years, it is considered obsolete and is not considered to have priority over a more recently-coined name
  • Homonyms: Two names referring to different taxa but with same spelling
  • Invalid Names: Names for which the type specimen is found to not have diagnostic features when more relevant specimens are recovered
  • When You're Not Sure of the Species Identification:

    Difficulties of Paleo-taxonomy
    Combining this lecture with the last, there are some inherent difficulties with the taxonomy of fossils that are not (generally) problems with living species:

    Parataxonomies: alternative taxonomic systems parallel to the primary one. Ootaxonomy (taxonomic system for vertebrate egg fossils) is one such set. Ichnotaxonomy SHOULD be one, but is considered under the zoological code.

    The Peculiarities of Paleobotanical Taxonomy
    Different plant organs often have very different taphonomic potentials and so are rarely preserved together. As a consequence, each paleoplant organ system (leaves; trunks; roots; stems; pollen/spores; etc.) has its own taxonomic system. WITHIN each system, the principles of priority apply. But discovery that (for example) leaf A, seed B, and trunk C belonged to the same paleoplant does NOT result in synonomy of A, B & C. This is in gross violation of ANY species concept/criterion, and of the neontological botanical code, but it is ultimately very pragmatic.

    To Syllabus.

    Last modified: 19 August 2016