Saturday, 7 July 2012

The state of the purported reconstruction of animal body-plan evolution

“Higher-level animal phylogenetics is hot. Unprecedented funding opportunities, increasingly sophisticated phylogenetic methods, and an accelerating avalanche of new data have combined to make new phylogenies welcome fodder for our revered scientific tabloids. One thing the resulting phylogenetic forest has brought into sharp relief is that never before have we been faced with such conspicuous gaps between the body plans of closest relatives. Barring fortuitous discoveries from the fossil record, many or most of these gaps can be expected to be permanent. With our imagination as the only available bridge across these gaps, it seems inescapable that our scenarios of body plan evolution will remain forever precariously poised on the narrow edge between fact and fantasy.”

Dr Ronald Jenner - taken from the publicity material for a lecture given by Dr Jenner entitled ‘Please mind the gaps: fact and fantasy in the reconstruction of animal body plan evolution’ at the Natural History Museum, London, 29 June 2012.

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