The classification of fossils has long been controversial. Should traditional taxonomic concepts be expanded to encompass plesiomorphic extinct relatives that exhibit subsets of essential defining characters in so many shades of gray? Should rank taxa, established on extant taxa alone, and in a pre-Darwinian, pre-Hennigian framework, remain restricted to their living constituents and integral extinct relatives? Or should these taxonomic concepts be restricted to a membership exhibiting a defining suite of essential characters, regardless of whether they are extant or extinct?

Hennig (1981) argued that rank taxa should be defined on the basis of extant organisms because the latter are...

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