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Fossils of Closely Related Species

  1. Jun 13, 2015 #1

    Drakkith

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    Hey all. I've got a question regarding fossils. Each individual person is unique, and the variation between any two people can be significant. How large are the differences between individual humans compared to the differences between closely related species in our fossil record? How do biologists tell the difference between two closely related species and two members of the same species when looking at fossilized remains?
     
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  3. Jun 13, 2015 #2

    mfb

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    This issue frequently leads to discussions, as there is no clear way to group everything into distinct species for obvious reasons.
    Not so much in terms of bones, so the fossil remains would look very similar.
     
  4. Jun 13, 2015 #3
    It's a great question.

    Most of us who work in paleontology are geologists...not biologists.

    For the most part we don't really care about biological species.. No way of telling for the most part. Paleontology is a wide field but for the most part fossils are used in biostratigraphy...aging formations, etc. What matters is that A comes before B. Find similar fossils elsewhere and the patterns repeat. Bottom line, the taxonomy is largely a tool rather than biology based. Of course, one is not exclusive of the other.

    Distinction between biological species is difficult but more the area of vertebrate paleontology such as mammals, Dino's, etc. Some of those paleontologists have a biology background rather than geology. Even there, any taxonomic label below 'family' can be iffy.

    Just a note...vertebrate paleontology is a small part of the field. Most of us study conodonts, brachiopods, foraminifera, etc. A small percent of paleontologists could name Dinos any more accurately than a 10 year old.
     
  5. Jun 13, 2015 #4

    Evo

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    There are pronounced differences in just for example, humans and their predecessors. Neanderthals as opposed to homo sapiens had large occipital buns and deep brow ridges. Sorry, I'm having one of my headaches, but can link more tomorrow perhaps. I have already posted the information here recently.

    If you're really interested drak, I can get more, a very good friend of mine is a well known paleontologist.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2015
  6. Jun 13, 2015 #5

    Drakkith

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    Sure. I always like learning about evolution and anything related to it.
     
  7. Jun 13, 2015 #6

    Evo

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