An Evolutionary Study of Some Archaeologically Significant Avian Taxa in the Quaternary of the Western Palaearctic

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Archaeopress, 2007 - Social Science - 272 pages
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This work sets out to examine four taxa of birds from the Quaternary of Europe that exhibit interesting morphological anomalies - cranes (Grus), grouse/ptarmigans (Lagopus), ravens (Corvus corax) and starlings (Sturnus) - to address whether these were the result of inter- or intraspecific processes. Modern skeletal material of these taxa from a wide geographical area was examined so as to make a more realistic assessment of the fossils than had previously been achieved. Similarly, fossils were studied from a wider geographical and temporal range than before. The study of the four chosen taxa was carried out with an acknowledgement of a variety of theoretical issues in biology, which affect the interpretation of such fossils. The study has shown that it is necessary to examine as much modern and fossil material as is available before fossils can be interpreted realistically. This generally leads to a more conservative assessment of morphologically anomalous fossils because variation occurs both above and below the level of species. This in turn has lead to a greater emphasis on ecomorphology than on taxonomy.

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