One of the major revolutions in dinosaur studies in the past 20 years has been in how they are classified, which is now accomplished through cladistics. Although evolutionary theory has been an essential part of biology and paleontology since the late nineteenth century, cladistics was not proposed in the scientific literature until 1950, and even then it did not become well known in mainstream scientific circles until 1966. This change was prompted by publication of a book in English that outlined its original concepts, which were first published in German by the entomologist Willi Hennig. Most dinosaur paleontologists did not begin to adopt cladistics until around 1984, although some discussion of the monophyletic versus polyphyletic nature of dinosaurs was a recurring point of debate in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, cladistics has become the standard classification system for dinosaur paleontologists, which probably would not have occurred so rapidly if not for the development of computer technology that analyzed quickly large data sets of anatomical characters in dinosaurs.
Cladistics is based on examination of anatomical features that can be broadly categorized as:
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