Milestones of Vertebrate Evolution

    The study of prehistoric life is at the forefront of life science studies, natural history museum interpretive programs, and popular culture, but there has never been any comprehensive overview of the evolutionary steps in any media.  This remarkable poster fills that need.  It contains a wealth of information and presents it in a very simple way, making it easy to understand.  This title has been under development for two years, but is finally coming together.  If you are interested in the evolution of our evolution poster, click here.

Working Draft 428 

About this poster

 In 1736, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) published his Systema Naturae, which provided the foundation for the study of what is now known as the life sciences. Among other things, it introduced his classification system, which has been greatly modified and expanded over the years. It follows the sequence: kingdom, phylum, order, family, genus, and species.
   During Linnaeusí lifetime and for many years thereafter, scientists studied existing species. They had no idea that earlier species had lived on Earth. Fossils were known by primitive man and were sometimes identified correctly as the remains of ancient life forms, but the organized study of prehistoric life only began in the late 18th century. The result was the newly-found science of paleontology.  It is the study of the developing history of life on earth, of ancient plants and animals based on the fossil record, preserved in rocks.
   A great many new fossils have been discovered over the past few decades, resulting in a greatly expanded knowledge of prehistoric life. Paleontologists realized that many newly-discovered species did not fit into the Linnaeus Classification System, which was not designed to accommodate them.
   Cladistics or "phylogenetic systematics," is a new branch of biology, one that seeks to determine the evolutionary relationships of living things based on derived similarities. Pioneered by German researcher Willi Hennig, (1913-1976), it provides the basis for the new Cladistic Classification System.
    This exciting new poster provides a comprehensive overview of vertebrate evolution in accordance with the new cladistics system, which it introduces. The most important evolved characteristics are shown and explained as the "Milestones of Vertebrate Evolution."
   These provide the foundation for grouping similar animals together into "clades," which have all but replaced the Linnaeus classifications.
   The main design is an "Evolution Tree," which is a stylized cladogram.  It shows and identifies all of the major clades. The "tree" design shows how each branched off from earlier ones and other relationships. Each of the milestones is predominately marked on the tree as they are the basis for the most important clades. 

   The Evolution Tree is superimposed over a geological time chart. The branches show how milestones resulted in new groups of animals.  The position of the branches shows how animals are related.  The beginning, end and length of each branch shows when they lived, and, the thickness of branches provides a symbolic representation of the relative abundance or scarcity of those animals during each period of geological time. 

     Insets provide a wealth of additional information about related subjects. These include an introduction to geological time, the dangers of unchecked evolution, the impact of mass extinctions, adaptive radiation and how various types of animals dominated the earth at various times. The evolution tree dramatically shows the impact of the mass extinctions and the animals that radiated as a result of them.
    Best of all, when completed this poster will show around 130 different species positioned to show the results of evolutionary milestones.  Collectively they provide an incredible overview of the diversity of prehistoric animals. The linage of each group can be followed forward or backward in time. 
The design makes it easy to see the mix of animals that lived at various times.
Dr. Robert Reisz, vertebrate paleontology at the University of Toronto is a pioneer in cladistics.  His classification system is widely used and taught in North America. Dr. Reisz is working closely with Feenixx Publishing to develop this cutting edge poster.
   Virtually all life science professionals have accepted cladistics and it is taught in most college level life science classes. However, this new knowledge is just now beginning to seep into the grade schools. This poster is written for middle school students and, to the extent possible, avoids scientific terms.  However its coverage of the subject is so comprehensive that it will prove invaluable to both college students and life science professionals. 
   This poster condenses a tremendous amount of information into a simple but comprehensive presentation. Tests have shown that a reader with no prior knowledge of the subject can gain an excellent basic understanding of vertebrate evolution by just spending a few minutes reviewing this poster.  Teachers will find that it contains everything they need to prepare a well-organized lesson plan.
     As a footnote, our Animal Kingdom poster shows all the phyla classified under the old Linnaeus system.  Milestones of Vertebrate Evolution can be used with Animal Kingdom to compare the two systems.
Current status: The above layout utilizes stock art to provide guidelines for species to be shown; their position, size and other things.  As you can see, not all species have been added, as the selection of each one requires extensive research.  Blue ovals indicate problem areas.  Once the species list has been finalized, it will require considerable time to create the 150 highly-detailed illustrations.  Once the illustrations are complete and added to the poster, we have to fine tune the size and position of everything.  We anticipate that this poster may not be complete until fall of 2006.  Because of the extensive content of this poster, we are considering producing it twice the size of normal 24" x 36" poster.  In other words, it would be a huge 3 x 4 feet in size.
    We are also considering using the research and images in conventional size posters that present more specific subjects, such as archosaurs, synapsids, prehistoric birds, etc.

For the convenience of our researchers and consultants, the above is available as a full size JPEG.
Download Draft 426 Here