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Showing posts from 2012

Cat skull shape evolution across phylogeny and through time

I have a new paper out in PLoS ONE (coauthored with Marcello Ruta) on the variation and evolution of skull shape in extant and fossil felids. Below, I'll outline a few key points:


1) We analysed the relationships of some extinct sabre-toothed cats, and their interrelationships with modern conical-toothed cats and basal (ancestral) cats using maximum parsimony analyses in PAUP* and TNT.

Our results show that all sabre-toothed cats (Machairodontinae, including species with shorter canines, intermediate in form between conical- and sabre-like morphologies) are more closely related to each other than any of them are to modern conical-toothed cats (Felinae).


2) We quantified skull shape using traditional linear measurements (but adjusted for size, or isometric scaling) from over 300 cat skull specimens and:

A) We performed a linear discriminant analysis (LDA) to assess the ability of the linear morphometrics in distinguishing and correctly classifying group delimitations. For the taxonomic…

On the word, 'theory'

The Japanese language has two separate words equivalent to the two usages of the English word, 'theory'.

理論 [RI-RON]
A system of knowledge built on logic to systematically and uniformly explain individual phenomena. In addition, a purely logical knowledge corresponding to practice.

説 [SE-TSU]
1. A principle (belief) or claim for certain things.
2. Rumor.

I tried to translate the Japanese definitions as faithfully as I can into English. The first word, 'ri-ron', is equivalent to the scientific usage of the English word, 'theory' (as in 'the theory of evolution' or 'the theory of relativity'), while the second word, 'se-tsu', is equivalent to the common usage (more like 'I have a theory!'). Setsu doesn't need to be substantiated and can be wild claims.

It's a shame the English language doesn't have two separate words; we can avoid a lot of confusion.