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12 November 2015 When Tradition Meets Technology: Systematic Morphology of Fishes in the Early 21st Century
Eric J. Hilton, Nalani K. Schnell, Peter Konstantinidis
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Many of the primary groups of fishes currently recognized have been established through an iterative process of anatomical study and comparison of fishes that has spanned a time period approaching 500 years. In this paper we give a brief history of the systematic morphology of fishes, focusing on some of the individuals and their works from which we derive our own inspiration. We further discuss what is possible at this point in history in the anatomical study of fishes and speculate on the future of morphology used in the systematics of fishes. Beyond the collection of facts about the anatomy of fishes, morphology remains extremely relevant in the age of molecular data for at least three broad reasons: 1) new techniques for the preparation of specimens allow new data sources to be broadly compared; 2) past morphological analyses, as well as new ideas about interrelationships of fishes (based on both morphological and molecular data) provide rich sources of hypotheses to test with new morphological investigations; and 3) the use of morphological data is not limited to understanding phylogeny and evolution of fishes, but rather is of broad utility to understanding the general biology (including phenotypic adaptation, evolution, ecology, and conservation biology) of fishes. Although in some ways morphology struggles to compete with the lure of molecular data for systematic research, we see the anatomical study of fishes entering into a new and exciting phase of its history because of recent technological and methodological innovations. With each new advance of technology and with each new generation of researcher, systematic morphology becomes a new and vibrant science.

© 2015 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Eric J. Hilton, Nalani K. Schnell, and Peter Konstantinidis "When Tradition Meets Technology: Systematic Morphology of Fishes in the Early 21st Century," Copeia 103(4), 858-873, (12 November 2015).
Received: 28 October 2014; Accepted: 1 August 2015; Published: 12 November 2015
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