What? Someone noticed? From Manchester University:
A comprehensive new study looking at variations in Ichthyosaurus, a common British Jurassic ichthyosaur (sea-going reptile) also known as ‘Sea Dragons’, has provided important information into recognizing new fossil species.
Professor Judy Massare (SUNY College at Brockport, NY, USA) and Dean Lomax (The University of Manchester) have studied hundreds of specimens of Ichthyosaurus. After their latest research project the pair urge caution in naming new fossil species on the basis of just a few fragmentary or isolated remains.
For their research Prof Massare and Lomax focused on one particular part of the Ichthyosaurus skeleton, the hindfin (or back paddle). The purpose was to evaluate the different forms among the six-known species of Ichthyosaurus. They examined 99 specimens which could provide useful information.
Early in their research, they found different types of hindfin that initially appeared to represent different species. However, the more specimens they examined the more ‘variation’ they uncovered, such as differences in the size and number of bones. They determined that a single hindfin alone could not be used to distinguish among species of Ichthyosaurus, but that a particular variation was more common in certain species.
“As lots of new fossil species are named every year, in some cases, such as with fragmentary or limited remains, the decision to name a new species should be considered very carefully.” Added Lomax. More.
Darwin’s creed was The Origin of Species, so it was natural for biologists to cluster around the concept, no matter how unsatisfactory in the light of genomics today, and to deplore anyone who happens to notice the mess. The mess puddles, pools, and widens.
But there is also the political impact when we are considering living species: If any group of reproducing life forms can be declared a separate “species,” it is protected under jobs-creating environment legislation, for which many well-meaning persons will be marchin’, marchin’, irrespective of any evolutionary, genomic, or ecological facts. With which they do not, perhaps, overly trouble themselves.
Yes, the “Save-the” posters almost design themselves… but what of the real ecology? Who takes the trouble to understand it? The money today may very well be in not understanding it.
See also: Once again: The pygmy marmoset is two “species”
Shaking the horse family tree
At Nature: Much insect research could be impossible to replicate
Elephant family tree needs a rethink?
Speciation ain’t what it used to be. Neither is certainty about evolution.
New butterfly has 46 chromosomes, like a human, not the expected 68, like a close relative
DNA: Giraffes are four separate species?
More mammal species than we thought? But what defines a mammal species?
Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in
Then there are Lazarus species