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RE: Morelia spilota taxonomy revised

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Posted by: johnscanlon at Fri Jan 27 01:02:29 2006  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by johnscanlon ]  
   

Hi Richard,

I'd like to follow your reasoning on the point where you say:

>>Oh, and by the way…
>>*I think Morelia riversleighensis should revert to Montypythonoides riversleighensis Smith & Plane, 1985 until more fossil material comes to light.

I understand that this was in a purely evidence-free, opinion-based context, but as the guy who sunk Montypythonoides (with regret) I'm eager to find evidence that anyone has actually read my paper (ref. below... I may have cited it before). I had quite a lot of fossil material compared to the original description, and found evidence for close relationships with Morelia in the broad sense, but not fully resolved (due to character conflict) with respect to the amethistina, oenpelliensis and spilota/viridis groups.

Of course you do not recognise Morelia in that sense, so my phylogenetic result combined with your taxonomy for extant forms (where the putative nearest relatives of riversleighensis belong to four or five of your genera) would justify the opinion you gave.

On the other hand, I've always been puzzled by your preference for tiny little genera (which ignore a lot of interesting phylogenetic structure at slightly less trivial levels, and make 'species-complex' nearly always a redundant category).

We're still finding lots more python bones in Riversleigh deposits back to late Oligocene, and all pre-Pliocene specimens so far seem consistent with the single species. Various additional bits of skull (e.g. prefrontal, pterygoid, supratemporal) are very like amethistina, and I expect we'll sooner or later get near-complete skulls and nail its relationships down precisely. And you and I will presumably still disagree about what to call it.

Ref: SCANLON, J.D., 2001: 12:20. Montypythonoides: the Miocene snake Morelia riversleighensis (Smith & Plane, 1985) and the geographical origin of pythons. Memoirs of the Association of Australasian Palaeontologists 25, 1-35.

Cheers!
-----
John D. Scanlon
Riversleigh Fossil Centre
Outback at Isa
Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia
riversleigh@outbackatisa.com.au


   

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