The Contribution of Paleontology to Teleostean Phylogeny

  • Colin Patterson
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSB, volume 14)


I have been given a title concerning what Medawar (1967:23, 74) called ‘a comparatively humble and unexacting kind of science,’ research in ‘the parish registers of evolution.’ To avoid too much parochial detail, I will deal only with the phylogeny of the teleosts as a whole, without going into the different subgroups in any detail, and I shall emphasize generalities, using the teleosts as an example in a discussion of the role of phylogenetic paleontology. I shall try to assess paleontological methods, as practiced by workers on fossil teleosts, with the aim of identifying failures and successes, and of suggesting what contributions to phylogeny can and cannot be expected from paleontologists and their material. With these aims, my approach must be historical, and the main body of the paper is a historical review, with commentary. Since the teleosts are the first group for which a recognizable phylogenetic diagram was proposed (Agassiz, 1844), this review covers a longer period than most reviews of phylogenetic ideas. The review of nineteenth century work is fairly complete, but in the twentieth century, where the literature is more voluminous and well-known, I have cited only selected papers, particularly those containing phylogenetic diagrams, which summarize ideas more concisely than extended quotation.


Fossil Record British Museum Fossil Species Fossil Taxon Ancestral Group 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Patterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of PaleontologyBritish Museum (Natural History)LondonUK

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