Lumper or Splitter?

Rohinton Collins (
7 Dec 1996 22:47:36 GMT

In an attempt to inject some *scientific* discussion into this group lets
have some opinions on the following:

1. Is the 'hit-and-miss' process of classification of fossil taxa more
likely to lead to lumping or splitting?

2. Is it safe to assume that variation within extinct taxa would be similar
to the variation seen within extant taxa, bearing in mind that millions of
years may separate fossils believed to be in the same species?

3. Following on from 1 and 2, do you think that the specimens classified as
H. habilis are representative of a single species?

I think that it is dangerous making any hard and fast rules about
classification of extinct taxa. With extant species we can test for
inter-fertility. This is not possible with extinct species. The fact that a
species may span several million years makes this irrelevant anyway. For
example early eastern H. erectus specimens may differ sufficiently from
later H. erectus for some to identify them as different species. Has
speciation occurred? How long before speciation may be said to occur in a
species experiencing gradual evolution (as opposed to punctuated
equilibrium when a species with a markedly different morphotype arises in a
very short period of time)? To a certain extent it is simply a question of

Please, only scientific reasoning in this thread. I, for one, will not
reply to anthing less.