|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Learn] Fwd: RE: little can be better
|From learn-bounces-at-nylxs.com Wed May 17 03:30:41 2017
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From: Ruben Safir
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Subject: [Learn] Fwd: RE: little can be better
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From: Pinsdorf, Michelle
To: 'Ruben Safir'
Subject: RE: little can be better
Thread-Topic: little can be better
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:29:05 +0000
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If the characters that define those species are present in the skeleton,
then yes we could tell those species apart *if* we had the
character-possessing bones preserved as fossils, and *if* those
characters could be tracked across complicating factors like juvenile to
adult morphology transitions, pathologic deformation, crushing of
fossils, and degrees of variation between individual animals. If we were
really lucky to find fossils that had mineralized soft tissue (such as
feathers or melanosomes within the feathers, or keratinous structures
like the beak), or impressions of soft tissue structures, those
species-defining characters can extend beyond skeletal remains.
However, this depends on us having a really good fossil record for all
three of those species, with a statistically significant number of
fossils that have good collections data associated with them. As you
might guess, this is a difficult standard to meet for many kinds of
fossil taxa. Things are getting better over time in a number of ways: as
we collect more specimens, as we connect collections across multiple
museums through digitization and databasing efforts, and as we go back
to historical collections and improve upon specimen collection data that
was originally lacking.
For closely-related species that cannot be separated by skeletal
characters, the issue gets much more difficult! We are lacking a lot of
the tools modern biologists can use (genetic analysis, differences in
coloration, etc.), but we do lean heavily on biological concepts like
genetic drift and genetic isolation. With good data about the locality
from where fossils were collected, we might for example show that two
populations of the same species of fossil animal were geographically
isolated from another, and genetic isolation over a long enough period
of time could make the two groups subspecies of one another. Quantifying
the shape of certain skeletal features can also be done through
mathematical means such as principal component analysis, which could
separate a sample of fossils into morphologically distinct groups that
may represent different species or subspecies. If this sounds highly
theoretical, it is. Modern biology gives us a lot of data to crunch
about just where to draw a line between species. Applying those ideas to
the comparatively scant fossil record can prove difficult, but as the
data gets better (see the above paragraph!) the results improve in quality.
From: Ruben Safir [mailto:ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com] Sent: Wednesday, December
09, 2015 12:05 AM
To: Pinsdorf, Michelle
Cc: 'Ruben Safir'
Subject: Re: little can be better
I'll do that, but let me look at this from another angle. In theory,
could you tell a Red Hooded Sisken from a European Goldfinsh from a
Canary is just left with fossil bones.
On Tue, Dec 08, 2015 at 04:34:34PM +0000, Pinsdorf, Michelle wrote:
> Hello Ruben,
> When it comes to computational things, I have to be honest - you're asking the wrong person! Digitization efforts and electronic database management within the Paleobiology department fall to our Collections Management team. They also do a lot of georeferencing and GIS work. We also have an Informatics staff that manages our collections database software and all linked media for the whole of the museum. They might serve better if you'd like to bounce ideas off of someone. I don't do much with data crunching from an analytical perspective.
> The plant block you linked to did take quite an effort to get out of the field! I wasn't on that particular expedition but heard stories of it. The site that it came from was so prolific that everyone had a great time splitting large blocks and finding specimens... until the end of the day came around and it was time to haul everything back to the road. The results speak for themselves, though. This block was preparared by our department's volunteers in the museum's FossiLab, located inside of our exhibit space.
> Thanks again,
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ruben Safir [mailto:ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2015 8:29 AM
> To: Pinsdorf, Michelle
> Subject: Re: little can be better
> This must have been quite difficult.
> So many immigrant groups have swept through our town that Brooklyn,
> like Atlantis, reaches mythological proportions in the mind of the
> world - RI Safir 1998 http://www.mrbrklyn.com
> DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002 http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources - Unpublished Archive http://www.coinhangout.com - coins!
> Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and and extermination camps, but
> incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town that Brooklyn, like
Atlantis, reaches mythological proportions in the mind of the world - RI
Safir 1998 http://www.mrbrklyn.com
DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources - Unpublished Archive
http://www.coinhangout.com - coins!
Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and and extermination camps, but
incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013
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