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Rangeomorph classification schemes and intra-specific variation: are all characters created equal?

By
Charlotte G. Kenchington
Charlotte G. Kenchington
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UKPresent address: Department of Earth Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Prince Philip Drive, St John’s, NL, A1B 3X5, Canada
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Philip R. Wilby
Philip R. Wilby
British Geological Survey, Environmental Science Centre, Nicker Hill, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
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Published:
January 01, 2017

Abstract

Rangeomorphs from the Ediacaran of Avalonia are among the oldest known complex macrofossils and our understanding of their ecology, ontogeny and phylogenetic relationships relies on accurate and consistent classification. There are a number of disparate classification schemes for this group, which dominantly rely on a combination of their branching characters and shape metrics. Using multivariate statistical analyses and the diverse stemmed, multifoliate rangeomorphs in Charnwood Forest (UK), we assess the taxonomic usefulness of the suite of characters currently in use. These techniques allow us to successfully discriminate taxonomic groupings without a priori assumptions or weighting of characters and to document a hitherto unrecognized level of variation within single taxonomic groups. Variation within the currently defined genus Primocandelabrum is too great to be realistically assigned to different species and may instead reflect primary character diversity, ontogenetic changes in character state or ecophenotypic variability. Its recognition cautions against generic-level diagnoses based on single differences in character state and will be crucial in understanding the mode of growth of these enigmatic organisms.

Supplementary material: Data tables, definition of the characters used in the analyses, and detailed descriptions and breakdowns of methods and results are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3726937

Gold Open Access: This article is published under the terms of the CC-BY 3.0 license.

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Contents

Geological Society

Earth System Evolution and Early Life: A Celebration of the Work of Martin Brasier

A. T. Brasier
A. T. Brasier
University of Aberdeen, UK
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D. Mcilroy
D. Mcilroy
Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
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N. McLoughlin
N. McLoughlin
Rhodes University, South Africa
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Geological Society of London
Volume
448
ISBN electronic:
9781786202932
Publication date:
January 01, 2017

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