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Crossed Tracks: Mesolimulus, Archaeopteryx, and the Nature of Fossils

Finkelman, Leonard (2019) Crossed Tracks: Mesolimulus, Archaeopteryx, and the Nature of Fossils. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Organisms leave a variety of traces in the fossil record. Among these traces, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontologists conventionally recognize a distinction between the remains of an organism’s phenotype (body fossils) and the remains of an organism’s life activities (trace fossils). The same convention recognizes body fossils as biological structures and trace fossils as geological objects. This convention explains some curious practices in the classification, as with the distinction between taxa for trace fossils and for tracemakers. I consider the distinction between “parallel taxonomies,” or parataxonomies, which privileges some kinds of fossil taxa as “natural” and others as “artificial.” The motivations for and consequences of this practice are inconsistent. By comparison, I examine an alternative system of classification used by paleobotanists that regards all fossil taxa as “artificially” split. While this system has the potential to inflate the number of taxa with which paleontologists work, the system offers greater consistency than conventional practices. Weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each system, I recommend that paleontologists should adopt the paleobotanical system more broadly.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Finkelman, Leonarddinosaurphilosophy@linfield.edu
Keywords: taxonomy, parataxonomy, phylogeny, fossil, trace fossil, ichnofossil
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology > Systematics
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Leonard Finkelman
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2019 02:39
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2019 02:39
Item ID: 15595
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Biology > Systematics
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Date: 16 January 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15595

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