For Discussion

1. Why are taxonomists concerned with identifying lineages that share a single common ancestor?

2. How are fossils used to identify ancestral and derived traits of organisms?

3. Taxonomists use the parsimony principle when reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Given that evolutionary processes are not always parsimonious, why is it used as a guiding principle?

4. A student of the evolution of frogs has proposed a strikingly new classification of frogs based on an analysis of a few mitochondrial genes from about 25 percent of frog species. Should frog taxonomists immediately accept the new classification? Why or why not?

5. Linnaeus developed his system of classification before Darwin proposed his theory of evolution by natural selection, and most classifications of organisms initially were proposed by non-evolutionists. Yet, many of these classifications are still used today, with minor modifications, by most evolutionary taxonomists. Why?

6. Classification systems summarize much information about organisms and enable us to remember the traits of many organisms. From our general knowledge, how many traits can you associate with the following names: conifer, fern, bird, mammal?

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