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Taxonomic triage and the poverty of phylogeny

Whereas Linnaeus aimed simply to create readily identifiable taxa, the idea of the Linnaean taxonomy as translating into a sort of dendrogram of the animal and plant kingdoms was formulated toward the end of the 18th century, well before On the Origin of Species was published.[25] Among early works exploring the idea of a transmutation of species were Erasmus Darwin’s 1796 Zoönomia and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s Philosophie Zoologique of 1809.[12] The idea was popularized in the Anglophone world by the speculative but widely read Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, published anonymously by Robert Chambers in 1844.[40]

With Darwin’s theory, a general acceptance quickly appeared that a classification should reflect the Darwinian principle of common descent.[41] Tree of life representations became popular in scientific works, with known fossil groups incorporated. One of the first modern groups tied to fossil ancestors was birds.[42] Using the then newly discovered fossils of Archaeopteryx and Hesperornis, Thomas Henry Huxley pronounced that they had evolved from dinosaurs, a group formally named by Richard Owen in 1842.[43][44] The resulting description, that of dinosaurs “giving rise to” or being “the ancestors of” birds, is the essential hallmark of evolutionary taxonomic thinking. As more and more fossil groups were found and recognized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, palaeontologists worked to understand the history of animals through the ages by linking together known groups.[45] With the modern evolutionary synthesis of the early 1940s, an essentially modern understanding of the evolution of the major groups was in place. As evolutionary taxonomy is based on Linnaean taxonomic ranks, the two terms are largely interchangeable in modern use.[citation needed][46]