Phytosaur Taxonomy Flowchart

I remember sitting down one evening back in 2001 and putting this together. It proceeds through time from left to right. This is why nobody wants to research phytosaur taxonomy!


  1. What, no large image? I, for one, want to see all the gory details.

  2. I agree Bill. It would nice to see this in close up.

  3. Man, that's a mess.

    Someone just needs to just say to hell with the published identities and do a phylogeny of the specimens themselves. Whatever polytomies arise, call the "appropriate" species and move on. That's ridiculous.

  4. I love that chart! I have a copy hanging by my desk from when I wrote my thesis.

  5. Yes, much better and very cool. I'd request an explanation, but I suspect the full story could form the basis for a full-semester taxonomy course.

  6. When writing my dissertation, I toyed with sitting down and presenting the same information as a spreadsheet. Original alpha taxon names tied to type specimens along the right side, plotted against publications along the top, with the intersects giving the names that various papers assigned to the specimens.

    A rather sobering aspect of phytosaur alpha taxonomy is that generally the most thorough and anatomically detailed studies have produced the most split and complicated taxonomies. The studies of Camp, Long and Murry, Hungerbeuhler, and Stocker are the standouts. Variation in phytosaur skulls might really be so complicated and plastic that lumping crania into one genus or species over another is too difficult to justify, so splitting is mandated. This is exactly what one might expect as the fossil record of an evolving group gets better represented. Improving fossil records, which show more individual vaiation and steadily remove the gaps between morphotypes, makes alpha taxonomy harder, not easier. Bill and I are having the same problem with aetosaurs.

    This is a particular bitch given that phytosaurs are so important for biostrat. So far, Bill and I have been getting away with using squamosals, which fall into easily identifiable morphotypes, but I am wondering how long we are going to be able to get away with that.

    Unfortunately, virtually nothing is known of varition between phytosaur mandibles and postcrania...because hardly anyone has bothered to look.


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