Posts Tagged 'cladistics'

Chimeras in palaeontology

I have always been a fan of Roman and especially Greek mythology and especially the mythical monsters. I suppose in a way it is no different to my interest in palaeontology or zoology – all animals (and yes, even plants on occasion) are interesting in a bizarre way. Even human have enough features about them to make them truly ‘bizarre’, it just depends on how you look at things really.

I’d like to make the transition a little more smooth, but I started without thinking it through, and since the title is a bit of a give away, I’ll talk about chimeras now. For those that don’t know the chimera is a beast of Greek mythology which (depending on exactly which tale / translation you are reading) had the body of a lion with a second head of a goat attached behind the lion’s own head, and a snake for a tail. If you are lucky, you might get eagle feet or bat’s wings thrown in for a small surcharge. In other words, it is basically one animal made up of several others, all mixed together. Of which leads me onto fossil chimeras – specimens made up of more than one animal (individuals of a species or multiple species depending on the context), and depending on exactly how they came about and what they are, they can be very handy or a complete nightmare.
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The principle of parsimony in science

The principle of parsimony (also known as Ockham’s Razor) is a fundamental aspect of science, yet is often overlooked. I was only formally introduced to it during my PhD which in hindsight looks like an incredible oversight. It was not that I was not aware of it, or was not putting it into practice (hey, I was already a cladist) but it had never been spelt out in absolute terms and what that means for science. Frankly how this is not taught at say age 12 or 13 is beyond me.
Continue reading ‘The principle of parsimony in science’


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