Protomammal Fallacy

A lively discussion is taking place in the comments at Art Evolved in the new Permian Synapsid Gallery. Are terms like proto-mammal or stem-mammal appropriate? I tend to think they confuse more than help. I understand evolution by natural selection is a sequence, but by defining an extinct creature by its descendants, I think we run the risk of promoting the facile and erroneous amoeba-->fish-->lizard-->mouse-->monkey-->ape-->human progression diagram. That is why for the Synapsid Gallery, I wanted to show a dicynodont with human arms erupting from its own shoulders (and a gorgonopsid with human legs threatening it in the background). To echo Dawkins, Permian synapsids were not half-evolved, not "on their way" to becoming us. They were successful animals living in their own niche.

Successfully made my point? Well, perhaps as an illustration to this blog post.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.
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