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Early mammalian radiations

  • Richard L. Cifelli (a1)

Extract

The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Journal of Paleontology presents a felicitous opportunity to review major changes in interpretation of mammalian phylogeny. Founding of the journal coincides with the nascence of the career of the most influential paleomammalogist of the past century, George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984). It occurred at a time when now-archaic models for mammalian systematics and evolution, such as the aristogenesis of H. F. Osborn (1857-1935) and the typological concept of taxa, were prevalent (e.g., Simpson, 1945). These models were soon to give way to “new ways of going at things” (Laporte, 2000, p. 87); most significantly, the incorporation of quantitative methods and the evolutionary synthesis (Simpson, 1944). Subsequent decades witnessed the rise and/or sophistication of other applications and perspectives in fossil-based interpretation of mammalian systematics, including form-function analysis (e.g., Szalay, 1994) and, particularly, cladistic approaches (e.g., McKenna, 1975). Within these broad ideological frameworks, major paradigm shifts have resulted from new discoveries, conceptual changes, or (most commonly) a combination of both. Finally, mammalian systematics currently lie at the verge of a monumental paradigm shift, providing important direction for the future.

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